In Montana, planning for the transition to adulthood needs to start years before eligibility for services through the school district ends. I asked Roger Holt, executive director of Parents, Let's Unite for Kids (PLUK) in Billings, to give us a quick overview of adulthood-transition services and planning in Montana and suggest some things parents can do to get started.
How does the transition from special education to adulthood work in Montana?Transition to adulthood must be formally addressed beginning with the IEP that will be in place when the student turns 16 years of age. Transition planning should encompass more than just post-secondary school, training, or work; transition should be a comprehensive approach that includes the areas of life skills, work, and community involvement, i.e., Live, Work, and Play. The transition section of the IEP should include information from the student about what he or she would like to be doing after high school in the areas of live, work, and play; results from age-appropriate transition assessments; measurable post-secondary goals; and a description of needed transition services and how they will be provided. The goal of transition planning and services is to maximize adult independence. [Download a sample IEP form.]
Who should a parent contact about transition services?The first contact for transition is the student’s special education case manager. Typically, this is the educator who is responsible for the student’s IEP. The case manager can inform the parent and student about which, if any, adult services may be appropriate for the student. Representatives from the adult agencies can be invited to the IEP meeting. The case manager can also supply the parent with adult agency contact information. The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) has transition information available on its Web site at opi.mt.gov/Programs/SpecialEd/Index.html#gpm1_12. PLUK publishes two transition guides you can download: Montana Parent’s Handbook on Transition: What Happens After High School and Montana Parent’s Handbook on Transition: Adult Living.
Do you have any advice about transition to adulthood in Montana?Although IDEA allows schools to serve students with special needs through age 21, services in Montana typically end when the student graduates from high school or when he or she ages out by turning 19 before September 10th. Because this may result in a shorter transition process than in other states, parents should be proactive about addressing transition with the IEP team. Teams can choose to begin the process in the IEP before the required age; for some students, an earlier start may make a significant difference in the level of independence that they achieve as adults. The importance of this is magnified because most adult services in Montana have long waiting lists. Additionally, even students who will need support as adults may not be eligible for services. [See a list of transition and vocational-rehabilitation contacts at Montana high schools.]
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About Parents, Let's Unite for Kids: PLUK is an organization of parents and other caring individuals in Montana who serve families and individuals with disabilities of any age and at no cost. Parents and others may contact PLUK at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-222-7585. Visit the website at www.pluk.org/.