Transition Planning

A Path for ME logoWhat is Transition?

Transition is the process of making a change: moving from one place or experience to another. Post-secondary transition is when a youth completes high school and blazes a new trail into adulthood. The work to prepare youth with disabilities for this transition begins in high school through special education services. For individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disability (IDD), Autism (ASD), Brain Injury (BI), or Other Related Conditions (ORC), this can happen in partnership with the Maine Office of Aging and Disability Services (OADS).

When youth with disabilities plan their future and practice adult responsibilities, they become more independent. They are also more likely to achieve their goals after high school. In fact, when youth have paid work experiences and learn self-determination skills while they are in high school, they are more likely to be employed and continue their education as young adults. Transition services can provide life skills and community connections that will benefit youth for years to come.

What is Transition Planning?

In Maine, all youth who receive special education services are entitled to transition services beginning no later than 9th grade. Transition services are a coordinated set of activities that support a youth’s move from school to post-school activities. These include but are not limited to continuing education, employment, adult services, recreation, and independent living. Schools will provide transition services under a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These services help youth, and their families plan and prepare for the youth’s life after high school. They are intended to improve the quality of life for youth with disabilities, as they become adults.

The services could include: 1) instruction 2) related services 3) community experiences 4) the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives 5) if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation.

Good to Know:

Every youth transition plan is a little different, since each plan is developed to support the youth’s needs, strengths, and goals. All plans should have a focus on integrating the youth into their communities. Plans may include:

  • Continuing Education: find college, adult education, internships, apprenticeships, and other career training opportunities.
  • Competitive Integrated Employment: work in a business for pay or own your own small business.
  • Home and Housing: learn about housing options from apartments, supported living, and even home ownership.
  • Finances and Money: take a financial literacy class, set up a bank account, learn to budget and save.
  • Community Engagement: join a club, group, be a member of an organization, find a place of spirituality or worship, volunteer at a non-profit, explore hobbies and interests.
  • Health and Recreation: focus on health- have connections to professionals, explore ways to stay healthy with exercise and nutrition.
  • Services and Supports: connect to case management, and services to support you to live, work and be in your community.

For more information, please email us at:

When Does Transition Planning Begin?

Transition planning and services are initiated by the school and documented in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).

It might seem too early to begin thinking about adulthood in 9th grade, but it’s not! The 9th grade year is an exciting one for all youth as they select their course of study for their time in high school. The path selected in 9th grade impacts the choices youth will have for future education and career options. The earlier a transition plan begins, the more likely a youth is to live independently, pursue a job, or attend college. The school and family may elect to begin transition work before 9th grade if they believe it makes sense. IDEA requires that transition be discussed annually for all transition-aged youth, and more often if possible.

Planning requires collaboration between the school, youth, family, and any related service providers. The youth is at the center of the process.

The plan that is developed should reflect what the youth wants to do after high school. Research indicates that when youth are engaged in their transition planning, they are more invested in the process and have better outcomes after high school. A strong IEP should describe how a youth’s school programming will help them attain his or her desired job, continuing education, and living situation after high school.

For more information, OADS has developed this Transition Timeline reference document (PDF).

Boy in a suit and tie


People with IDD and/or autism, just like ALL people have the right to self-determine what is important to them and how they want to live their lives. All transition planning should be built upon the principle of self-determination.

It is important that team members ensure that youth with IDD and/or autism have the knowledge, to the greatest extent possible, that they are entitled to the freedom, authority, and supports they need to have control over their lives.

The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) has created this guide on self-determination with helpful resources for more information: NTACT Self-Determination Webpage

Roles in Transition Planning

Keep the Youth Central

Each member of the student’s transition team has a different but complementary set of responsibilities. transition planning keeps the youth actively at the center of the transition plan. The transition services for the youth are chosen based on the youth’s self-identified interests, strengths, and needs. This is known as person-centered planning.

To learn more about each team member’s role please click on the links for each role below:

Get Support

Adults with disabilities want to live as independently as they can. There are services and supports available that can help them to do so, not just in their homes, but in their communities and at work as well.

Some of the services that are available through these programs, include:

  • home support,
  • community support,
  • work support,
  • career planning,
  • assistive technology,
  • durable medical equipment,
  • therapy services, and
  • transportation

Learn more about how the Maine Office of Aging and Disability Services and our partners can support you:

The Future of Transition Planning in Maine – The Lifespan Model

What is “Lifespan”?

The DHHS Office of Aging and Disability Services (OADS), the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) and the Office of MaineCare Services (OMS), are working together on an exciting project to develop a new Lifespan Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) option to support Maine people living with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) and/or Autism to meet their changing needs as they transition through various stages of life.

The goals of the project include assisting individuals with IDD and/or Autism and their families in ways that:

  • Offer more flexibility to address goals and needs that naturally change across the lifespan.
  • Improve transition and in-home support services to support successful transition from childhood to adulthood.
  • Use new ideas that work to support access to innovative services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Where can I find more information on “Lifespan”?

Transition Team Contact Information

For more information, please email us at: