Building a Life

A transition guide for Kansans

Things to Consider

  • Learn about the ADA and 504 federal laws that provide equal access to a college, university or vocational education for your youth/young adult
  • Make sure the higher education institution provides an orientation to the campus and all of its services, and that your youth/young adult attends it
  • Help your youth/young adult find a mentor after high school, someone who can help them navigate the community, including college or vocational training


For students with IEPs, transition to the community is first addressed when they turn 14. Their plan is revised to include what the student hopes to learn and accomplish before leaving high school. The next revision at age 16 lists the actions the student, parent, school district and outside agencies should accomplish before the student leaves school. For students in a school district 18-21 program, even more transition services are provided, with an emphasis on job and independent living skills.

At that time, the IEP team should connect the student to:

When students require accommodations to their physical or learning environments in high school, they may have a federal 504 Plan. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects individuals from discrimination based on their disability, and, along with the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, ensures access to colleges, universities and other federally funded higher education institutions.

Keep in mind that even if your young adult had a 504 Plan or IEP in high school, those alone do not always count as documentation for accommodations in college.  The key point to remember is that the purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is to ensure that students are successful in the K-12 system whereas the ADA and Section 504 only ensure access to a college education. Success in college is up to the student.


 Parents of K-12 students with disabilities or chronic health issues know it takes a village to help their children succeed in school. But this same village – and more – is just as important to help your teen or young adult move into the adult world. You want people on the team who have a positive outlook, who can be encouraging and supportive of your child’s strengths and skills. Include mentors, spiritual leaders, friends, and neighbors—people who know your son or daughter. Work closely with the social service and government agencies’ that can help your child become independent. Take good notes at your meetings and always keep your cool, even when you disagree with what is being said. A transition specialist can be helpful in identifying services and opportunities for a seamless transition.  

 Often, when our children are young, we focus more on their problems and their limitations as we struggle to learn about their needs. But when you are helping your young adult transition to a more independent life, it’s a good idea to focus on their strengths and skills first. Those are the building blocks of a good and interesting life. So instead of looking for ways to fix your teen or young adult’s problem, seek out their gifts, what they could bring to others. You don’t have to ignore their challenges, but shift your view a bit and don’t allow those challenges to become the focus of the plan. Instead, consider them as simply expectations or needs to be supported throughout the transition period. Transition planning is designed to prepare students to make the transition from the world of school to the world of adulthood. In planning for this change, the transition team considers areas such as higher education, vocational training, employment, independent living and community participation. To make this planning process as rich as possible, bring in as many people from these different areas of your young adult’s life as you can. The following website provides several technical assistance tools to assist your teen or young adult as they prepare to transition from school to adult living at