Transition to Adulthood

AAA: Area Agencies on Aging
ADA: American’s with Disabilities Act
CCC: Case Conference Committee
DDRS: Division of Disability & Rehabilitation Services
FAPE: Free and Appropriate Public Education
IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
IEP: Individual Education Plan
ITP: Individual Transition Plan
PASS: Plan for Achieving Self-Support
SSA: Social Security Administration
SSI: Social Security Income
SSDI: Social Security Disability Income
VRS: Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Age of majority: The age when a person is legally considered an adult, responsible for oneself, and can make certain legal and business decisions not possible before.
Assistive Technology: Equipment and services used to maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a person with a disability.
Community Access: Activities, special assistance, advocacy and education to help eligible persons participate actively in their community.
Community Rehabilitation Programs: An organization in the community that is qualified to provide specific types of vocational rehabilitation services.
Functional Vocational Rehabilitation: Services and programs that help people with disabilities develop skills related to a job or career..
Individual Education Plan: A plan for any student with a documented disability meeting the state requirements for Special Education. It is required by the IDEA to provide FAPE.
Pre-vocational skills: Skills that are needed for successful employment, including household skills, personal organization skills, and work readiness skills.
Respite care: A service that allows parents or caregivers short-term relief (usually a few hours) from caring for a person by providing in-home care by a trained professional.
Supported Employment: Usually describes a program that offers assistance in finding a job, training for that job, and one-on-one support at the job.

Transition is a term used in many ways. Sometimes it is used to talk about times between activities or places. For this resource guide, transitions refers to the type of changes that happen over long periods of time (i.e., weeks, months, or years) and changes that are big in scale. Some large-scale transitions include changing from pre-school (i.e., First Steps) to school-based services, middle school to high school, and high school to community-based services. Other important transitions may include moving to another city or state. Although the details of these changes are different, the basic process to prepare for these transitions is similar.

The core components to consider when planning for large-scale transitions are:

  • a place to live
  • transportation
  • work and adult education
  • healthcare and finances
  • family and friends
  • recreation and leisure
  • self-advocacy

Transition planning is an important strategy that can help individuals and families prepare for difficult changes. According to Osborn & Wilcox (1992), the functions of transitions planning are:

  • introduces family and student to the adult service system
  • determines the support needed by the student to live, work, and recreate in the community as an adult
  • identifies adult service system gaps, enabling transition the team to advocate for appropriate services
  • provides information to adult service providers about individual needs
  • provides information critical to determining appropriate IEP goals

Resources: Planning Tools, Timelines, and General Information on Transitions

  • Patterson, D. & Havill, J. (no date). Keys to Successful Transitions.
    A good introduction to the issues surrounding school-based transitions. This 12 -page brochure does not answer specific questions, but provides a list of best practices and tips for parents and students.
  • Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. (2003). A Family Guide to Transitions Planning.
    This guide for parents and caregivers thoroughly describes the transition process from youth to adulthood, highlights elements of effective transition plans, and offers tips on strategies, activities, and experiences. Easy to read, the 57-page guide also provides a glossary and list of resources available across the state.
  • The Adolescent Health Transition Project, Washington State Department of Health/Children with Special Health Care Needs Program. (2006). Washington State Adolescent Transition Resource Notebook.
    At almost 400 pages long, this notebook for families, educators, and healthcare providers provides information on almost every aspect of transitions from adolescence to adulthood. Although much of the information is specific to students in Washington state, there are many tools and checklists that are helpful to families in any location. These tools include questions to consider when considering housing, transportation, and health, skills rubrics, and a sample transition timeline.
  • Transition to Adult Life: A Shared Responsibility
    This booklet for families and and educators contains 4 sections focused on the key components of successful transitions. The information is broken down into key people involved, activities, and outcomes as related to the key components.
  • Patterson, D. & Havill, J.  If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Transition Planning Through the School Years.
    An easy to read, short booklet appropriate for students and families. It provides tips and recommendations for transitions from middle to high school and high school out of the school system. The information was extracted from interviews from more than 150 people who have lived through these transitions.

A Place to Live

  • Wheeler, M. (2008). Indiana Centers for Independent Living.
    This brief article describes the function and services provided by the nine Independent Living Centers in Indiana. Contact information for each of the Centers is included, as well as links to other resources that may be helpful.


  • (nd). This website includes information about transportation resources for each state, including Indiana. The link provided above directs users to a listing of several resources and websites that have information about services available for specific areas across the state as well as the Indiana 2-1-1 phone number that provides information on a variety of services, including transportation.
  • American Public Transportation Association. (2003). Indiana Transit Links.
    This site lists transit agencies for specific cities or metropolitan areas, as well as providing a list of transit agencies by county. The information provided is simply a link to that agency’s website.