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Since the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), Public Law 94-142, in 1975, Individualized Education Programs (IEP) have been a requirement of law for all children and youth with disabilities found eligible for special education. Each student’s IEP must list goals and objectives for educational activities and include information about the student's assessment and educational placement, the instructional content areas to be addressed throughout the year, the timelines and persons responsible for activities corresponding to the goals and objectives, how student progress will be evaluated, and the related services that each student needs in order to benefit from his or her special education. With the newest amendments to the EHA -- now entitled the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA (Public Law 105-17) -- a new component has been added to the IEP. Beginning no later than age 16, each student now must also have included in the IEP a statement of the transition services that he or she needs in order to prepare for such postschool outcomes as employment, postsecondary education, adult services, independent living, and community participation [The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. Chapter 33, Section 1401(a)(19)]. When appropriate, these statements must be also included in the IEPs of younger students [34 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Section 300.346(b)(1)].
The new definition of "Content of Individualized Education Program" is presented in this section. Clearly, for students aged 16 or older and, in many cases, for students who are younger, the contents of the IEP have expanded, and this will broaden the focus of IEPs and affect how they are developed. Traditionally, the IEP has been designed for a maximum of one year, breaking annual goals into short-term objectives. With the addition of transition services, the IEP becomes longer term, with objectives spanning across several years. For the first time, planning is oriented towards life after high school, with plans including adult services agencies and community agencies, where applicable. This is an enormous step forward in the concept of preparing students educationally, and will require a great deal of insight, foresight, and planning on the part of students, parents, and school and other agency professionals.
This area has been developed to explain transition services in the IEP. First, in order to provide a good grounding as to the meaning of these services, we will review IEPs and their purpose. The next section will discuss IEP development with respect to transition services. The last part of this section will examine how federal law might be translated into educational action; this includes looking closely at transition components to include in the IEP, current national trends regarding setting goals for transition, and the importance of assessment in helping each student plan for transition.
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