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The 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) focus on enhancing the post-school success of students with disabilities through raising learning expectations. One goal of IDEA is that students leave school prepared to live independently; enjoy self-determination; make choices; contribute to society; pursue meaningful careers; and enjoy integration in the economic, political, social, cultural and educational mainstream of American society. President Clinton signed an amendment last October that expands the mission of the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities, to "provide for improved access to employment and training for youth with disabilities ... by addressing, among other things, the education, transition, employment, health and rehabilitation, and independent living issues affecting young people with disabilities...."

"Transition" refers to planning and services that are needed to prepare youth with disabilities for moving smoothly from school to adult living, postsecondary education, or the workforce after leaving secondary education. This process includes instruction, community learning experiences, or support services to develop skills, knowledge and abilities and other strategies to address post-school living, learning or working needs. It may also include assistance in making applications prior to leaving school for services from community agencies, colleges or employment.

Special education leaders recommend that transition planning begin early enough to allow transition services to begin when the student reaches age 14. It may be necessary to start earlier if student needs are complex and additional time will be needed to develop skills or strategies to achieve a successful transition. Students, families and schools are key participants, as are community agencies or postsecondary education representatives whose specialized knowledge is needed to help with planning.

Sources: New York State Education Department, Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities. Web site. Frequently Asked Questions.

National Transition Summit on Young People with Disabilities: Bridging Systems to Improve Transition Results, June 20-21, 2000. Web site.

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