Figuring Out the Guidebooks: The value of real, individual transition goals in a Transition Service Plan

The key to reaching your goals is this: know what you want.

The most important component of a transition plan is your ultimate vision for employment and independence. Transition goals reflect the big picture goals after a student finishes high school. These goals usually revolve around preparing for employment, training, developing life skills, and becoming independent. The team usually sets goals for school and home. These goals in a student’s Transition Service Plan are then supposed to guide the annual IEP goals and services during high school.¬†Sometimes parents, students, and teachers get frustrated with each other because they have different ideas about a student’s future, and this confusion can lead to disagreements about those annual IEP goals and services.

Maybe the teacher thinks a student would be most successful in hospitality and knows of job opportunities in that industry, but the student wants to work in film or photography. This could lead to frustration if the parent and student are envisioning classes in videography, extra-curricular activities with drama club, and visiting a movie production company for work experience while the teacher is envisioning work experiences at restaurants and hotels with classes in home economics. Neither is wrong, and both have the best interests of the student at heart, but we ultimately want the interests, skills, and vision of the student guiding the conversation. This is where a vision statement can be so important for clarifying those priorities at the start of an IEP meeting.

For example, our team knew Andy wanted to be a photographer, so they were able create real, individual transition goals and corresponding annual IEP goals and transition services based on that vision. Below are some examples of “desired measurable” goals and corresponding IEP goals and transition services based on that vision:

Education and Training

Goal: “After graduation from high school, Andy will take photography courses at his local college, as a part of his participation in that college‚Äôs Comprehensive Transition Program.

Transition Services: Andy will become actively involved in his preparation for a photography post-secondary program by completing the following 2 activities:

  1. Attend summer camp at local post-secondary program to learn more about the program.
  2. Develop a photography portfolio to fulfill the portfolio submission requirement for the Fine Arts Department at the local college.


Goal: “After completing a college post-secondary, Andy will be employed (part-time/full-time) working with the family photography business.”

Transition Services: Andy will develop photography skills and work skills to be employed in the community by completing the following activities within the IEP school year.

  1. Andy will take an elective related to photography to develop his skills. (Yearbook or Video Production)
  2. Andy will practice using appropriate greetings and acknowledge verbal direction, correction, or social comment with others by asking and answering questions as needed according to his assignment list in the elective class.

Independent Living

Goal: Within three years of graduating from high school, Andy will rent an apartment.

Transition Services: Andy will improve his daily living skills by reading and following instructions to prepare a basic meal by locating basic kitchen tools such as measuring cups/spoons, paper goods, and a blender with up to one prompt per step.

  1. Andy will cook a simple snack/ meal following a recipe for classmates. (Done in a Co-taught Food Science and Nutrition course).
  2. Andy will cook a simple meal following a recipe for his family. (Done at home.)

We know youth with disabilities who are interested in golf, dance, and piano like our friend Kate (in the photo above), and we have friends who want to work more hours at Chic-Fil-A and live in an apartment after graduation. When we meaningfully identify those interests in the Transition Service Plan, then all the other goals and services can fall into place to support the big picture vision. Below are some further examples of those individual transition goals and corresponding IEP goals and services. How have you used transition plans to build a more valuable high school experience?


Transition Goals in the IEP