In Maine, students can receive special-education services until age 20, but the process of planning for transition starts long before that. Here are five things to do to help you prepare for your child's transition to adulthood in Maine and make sure there's something waiting after school is done.
1. Expect transition planning to be a part of your child's IEP by his or her fourteenth birthday if not before. To start thinking about what your child will need to get ready for life after school, read "Tip Sheet: What Are My Dreams?" and "A Transition Planning Guide for Families of Youth and Young Adults with Developmental Disabilities Toolkit," both downloadable from the AccessMaine site, and "Getting Older, Moving On," the fourth book in the Guide to Special Education series on the Southern Maine Parent Awareness site. Your child should be involved in IEP meetings at this point if at all possible, even if it's a brief appearance to talk about work or post-high-school educational goals.
2. Prepare for the transfer of rights to your child at age 18, the age of majority in Maine. You and your child should receive written notice of the transferral of these rights. If your child will need you to continue to be in charge of his or her educational program, you will need to consult with a lawyer to look into guardianship or power of attorney. Your school district may continue to include you and consult with you, depending on how your relationship has been, but legally they only have to get your child's approval from this point on unless you have created a legal standing for yourself.
3. Work with your child's IEP team and the school's transition coordinator to determine whether your student should graduate with his or her age peers or stay in school additional years or all the way until eligibility ends at the end of the school year in which your child turns 20. Be sure to ask what sorts of work programs are available, what your child would be doing in the classroom with those extra years, and what your child's options will be after leaving school.
4. Investigate state and other organizations that can help your child transition to work and independent living when school is over. These may include the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services of the Maine Department of Labor, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and the resources listed on the Transition Planning page at AccessMaine.
5. Contact the Maine Parent Federation and Southern Maine Parent Awareness, parent advocacy organizations that offers support and services for families of children with special needs, for advice on helping your child through this transition. AccessMaine also has good resources for helping your child establish a life in the community, including a tip sheet you can use to start working on skills for independence.