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Moving On to High School: A Tip Sheet for Parents of Children on Individualized Education Plans

Tools for Inclusion 18A


Originally published: 3/2004

Suggested audiences:

Using these tips: You may find many of these tips apply to students in settings other than public schools. While we have assigned steps to certain stages in the transition process, we recommend you read through all the tips and decide what makes the most sense for your family.

Families get some of their best ideas, information, and insights from talking to other families. Everything from the best durable equipment supplier, to the best place to get socks that fit under leg braces, to which dentists are the best with our kids-- they all get passed on by word of mouth.

Time spent in school is probably the single greatest feature of our children's lives, at least until age 22. So it only makes sense to make sure our sons and daughters get what they need from school. There have even been studies looking at which approaches result in the best school experience for students with disabilities. Even though families don't have much influence over how general education and special education courses are structured in schools, there are things that families can do to make the most of what their schools have to offer.

This tip sheet is based on the experiences of students with disabilities in public schools age 14-17, and their families. All the students had Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and all were moving on from the middle school grades to high school (9th grade).

Before High School Starts...

The transition from 8th grade to high school is a very important one. Make sure that people who will be part of your teenager's high school experience are present at the 8th grade IEP meeting. Also include other important people in your adolescent's life.

Become familiar with your teenager's high school and staff before school starts. Take time to arrange an appointment and go in to the school.

When High School Is Just Beginning...

Attend orientation meetings and open houses at school; they are not just for "regular" education parents. This is how you learn about new programs, new teams, and any other opportunities that can help, such as community service, vocational programs, and electives.

Throughout the High School Years...

Course Selection

Take high school course selection very seriously. State and federal laws require that students' course planning relate to their long-term plans starting at age 14. Course selection should match the vision that the student with their family's input have for the future (post-secondary education, training, employment). A vision statement should be part of the IEP.

Find ways to ensure that your teenager gets included in all the high school has to offer. For example, if your teenager is in classes with only special education students, talk with his educational team about making sure there is time in his schedule for inclusive activities. These could include lunchtime, gym, electives, clubs and other extracurricular programs.

Learn about person-centered planning and make it happen at your teen's school. Person-centered planning is a very powerful process, and the work it takes to make it happen is well worth it.


Don't wait for progress reports and teacher conferences to find out how things are going. Take the initiative to check in with teachers.

Remember, good teachers want more parent involvement and encourage families to come in to the school to meet.


Whole Life Planning for People with Disabilities. Manual and video, $109 for set. Available from TRN Inc., www.trninc.com, 1-866-823-9800. A useful reference for implementing a person-centered planning approach to assist young adults in making the transition from school to adult life. Key aspects emphasize the involvement of family, friends, and community members, with the student driving the process. The video illustrates whole life planning in action by depicting key aspects of the process and the experiences of three students.

Starting with Me: A Guide to Person-Centered Planning for Job Seekers. Tools for Inclusion, Vol. 10 No. 1, July 2002. Available from the Institute for Community Inclusion, www.communityinclusion.org, 617-287-4300. This brief reviews a three-stage career development process to help individuals with disabilities make satisfying job choices.

Websites on Person-Centered Planning: http://ici2.umn.edu/pcplanning/info/sites.html

Moving On to High School: A Tip Sheet for Parents of Children on Individualized Education Plans is a publication of the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI), written by Linda Freeman.

Thanks to Maria Paiewonsky and Kathy Moriarty for their help with this material.

Institute for Community Inclusion
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Boulevard
Boston, MA 02125
617.287.4300 (voice)
617.287.4350 (tty)
617.287.4352 (fax)

Visit www.communityinclusion.org to read this product online, find other publications on this topic, or sign up for ICI's email announcement list.

ICI promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities. Family resources include publications on employment and education.

ICI: promoting inclusion for people with disabilities