Graduation – This can be a joyous time or it can be a scary time. Even with the best transition planning, the move to the adult world can be daunting. Children are entitled to receive a public education under IDEA; but there is no “entitlement” for adult services. Often there are waiting lists for adult services or confusing eligibility criteria. Therefore, it is imperative for parents to start thinking about graduation far in advance of the “big day.”
What would you do if your child did not have a disability? Would you wait until after graduation to research opportunities for your child? We hope not. Most typical students begin planning out their high school courses in 7th grade. It should not be any different for students with disabilities.
Therefore, it is important to begin doing your own research well BEFORE graduation by contacting parent organizations, post-secondary institutions, community providers, etc. to learn more about what is available in your community or around the state of Texas. Each program will have its own requirements to access services. Whether it is disability support services at a university or training services at a day program, you will need to ensure that your child has the skills needed to participate.
Again, the purpose of IDEA is to prepare students for further education, employment, or independent living. Every year your child is receiving special education services you should be preparing them for graduation. As early as possible (we recommend Middle School at the latest), begin talking to your child about his or her plans for the future.
Graduation is not just a ceremony. There are a number of things that parents need to understand to ensure their student will be equipped for the “real world” when he or she graduates from high school:
- Transition Planning
- Participation in the Graduation Ceremony
- Graduation Programs
- Graduation Options for students with disabilities
- STAAR End of Course Exams
- Academic Achievement Record
- Age of Majority (Age 18)/Guardianship & Alternatives
- Summary of Performance
Make sure that graduation will truly be a day of celebration for your child and your family. As soon as your child enters high school, familiarize yourself with the topics listed above. Work with your child’s ARD committee to develop a well-defined transition plan – one that reflects your child’s goals and needs.
Ultimately, it is up to you, working in collaboration with the school, to ensure that when the time comes your graduate is ready to make the ultimate change of placement – to further education, employment and independent living.
It is never too early to begin planning for graduation!
Texas Education Agency –
Legal Framework for the Child Centered Process - Graduation
Region 13 Graduation for Students with Disabilities Live Binder