Written by CPSD Ruderman Family Fellow Colleen Thoma, Professor, Department Chair, Special Education and Disability Policy Virginia Commonwealth University
Preparing youth for a transition from school to adult life can be seen as one of the primary goals of public education. Whether students graduate from high school to pursue postsecondary education, go directly into a job, or a combination thereof, the process of transitioning into adulthood can be challenging and exciting for the student as well as his or her parents. For students with disabilities, this transition time adds additional challenges as they and their parents learn to navigate a new range of support systems with their own unique set of requirements, options, policies, and procedures. In the mid 1990’s as the concept of transition services were added to the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 1990), parents described their struggles with learning to navigate the adult service world as being "the second shock,"1 or the equivalent to the identification of their child as having a disability. This policy brief will describe the current landscape of policies that impact this transition planning process for youth with disabilities and their parents.