Periods of transition can have a profound influence on children’s progress but can also be opportunities to engage with change in a positive way. There are four key transition points to be aware of, moving from:

  • Preschool to foundation stage
  • Foundation stage to key stage 1
  • Primary to secondary
  • One year group to the next

There are additional challenges during transitional periods for disabled children and their families. Especially, for children with complex needs, a number of different professionals may be involved; the preparation process will take longer and additional meetings will be needed. An example of this could be meetings with physiotherapists and classroom staff to make sure activities and exercise regimes are implemented to support quality of movement and strength and co-ordination. In these meetings, parents, carers and professionals can also share information regarding appliances and use of specialist equipment children may use at home and at school.

The emotions surrounding transition can be very strong and every child will react differently. Some will find it impossible to ask for help when faced with difficulties, while others may cope with underlying anxieties by demanding to be the centre of attention. Even children who appear to cope well with school can be thrown off course by changes.

Transition is an ongoing process, not a single event, and it takes place over several years. The transition process starts when your child is 13 or 14 (Year 9) and continues until they leave school. It's important to get the right support early on from a number of professionals. Some of them may be involved in your child's life up to age 25.

Provision varies from one local authority to the next, so check what your authority provides. The benefits of properly managed transition will carry your child through into adulthood, increasing their opportunities in life.

Listen to what your child wants. Encourage them to say what they want, rather than letting others take over. Even if their expectations seem unrealistic, some goals may be achievable with the right support. There are various steps you need to take at each stage of transition:

11 to 14 years

By 14 years

  • Begin transition planning as part of the IEP process.
  • Learn about 'exit options' to ensure your child will be able to reach his or her goals.

No later than 16 years

  • Transition plan, with focus on inter-agency links and responsibilities.
  • Identify job interests and abilities.
  • Include activities like career exploration, job sampling and some job training.
  • Identify community services that provide job training and placement.
  • Prepare job placement file with references and skills that have been acquired.
  • Begin application to adult services agencies.
  • Consider summer employment or participate in volunteer experiences.

16 to 18 years

Make contact with:

  • Adult services programmes
  • College, vocational or technical schools
  • Social security administration
  • Residential or independent living services
  • Recreation and leisure groups
  • Medical services.

17 to 18 years

  • Begin to consider and research guardianship.
  • Continue to review and update transition plan.
  • Take ACT or SAT tests.
  • Visit colleges and their disability services offices.
  • Register with disability service office of your preferred school by the end of their final year.

18 to 21 years

  • Continue to review and update transition plan.
  • Establish needed health benefits.
  • Develop long-term financial support plan.
  • Depending on their support needs, some students can remain in school and continue working on transition goals until they are 21.
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