Postsecondary Transition Planning

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004) mandates transition planning for students who have an individualized education program no later than the first IEP that will be in place when the student turns 16 years old. Some states require transition services at younger ages. Transition plans facilitate the student’s move from school to post-school activities. The plan addresses, at minimum, three areas:

  1. education and training
  2. employment
  3. independent living

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) collaborate with the student, parents, and additional secondary school personnel to develop and implement the transition plan. The plan considers the student’s needs, strengths, interests, and preferences.

Transition Planning

The roles and responsibilities of secondary school personnel, including the SLP, for transition planning are as follows (ASHA, 1994):

  • including students and parents in planning (e.g., their vision for the future)
  • being sensitive to the culture and values of the student and family
  • educating students about their legal rights
  • helping students develop self-advocacy skills
  • helping the student and family in the selection of appropriate postsecondary school and vocational settings and assisting with application processes
  • informing students and families about services in postsecondary settings (e.g., disability support services and academic counseling)
  • providing current documentation needed to access services (including academic accommodations) in a postsecondary setting
  • informing students and families about vocational support services
  • helping students identify the need for supports and any accommodations and assistive technologies in academic and vocational settings

Transition Goals

Goals for successful transitioning to postsecondary education or employment address the skills needed to facilitate self-determination—a person’s ability to decide their own future. Appropriate goals address the demands for communication and learning in adult daily life, postsecondary educational settings, and the workplace (Collins & Wolter, 2018; Frazier et al., 2019). 

Literacy- and language-based self-determination strategies include the following components (Collins & Wolter, 2018):

  • self-awareness—the student’s awareness of their strengths and weaknesses, the presence of their disability, and the supports they need for success
  • self-advocacy—the skill to disclose their disability to access necessary services and advocate for any necessary supports
  • goal setting, decision making, and problem solving—separate processes that encourage resilience and resourcefulness and increase autonomy and self-determined learning
  • self-regulation—identification of a problem, acknowledgment of a continued problem, and use of the skills required to address the problem

Literacy- and language-based goals that pertain to communication and learning may include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  • effectively communicating in everyday situations (e.g., riding public transportation, banking, and using service helplines)
  • understanding legal and business documents
  • preparing a résumé
  • completing a job or college application
  • effectively explaining skills and limitations during an interview
  • expressing concerns to authority figures about academic or job performance
  • stating or restating a position to effectively self-advocate in academic and employment settings

Postsecondary Services

Students with disabilities transitioning to postsecondary education and work settings are federally protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These laws ensure that students with disabilities have accessible educational, employment, and community environments and are provided aids and services necessary for effective function in these settings. Adults with disabilities who self-disclose their disabilities may access the following services:

Educational support—The ADA mandates that public and private postsecondary schools, including community colleges and vocational schools, must ensure access for individuals with disabilities. Individualized support for postsecondary education students may include accommodations such as extended time for tests, notetakers, assistive technology to help with reading and writing, and methods and devices to augment oral communication. Students can contact the Office for Students with Disabilities on their campus to obtain accommodations.

Employment support—The ADA mandates reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities so that they can access employment opportunities and benefits. Vocational rehabilitation services is a program that offers assessment of vocational strengths, career counseling, vocational training, job search assistance, and on-the-job supports such as job coaching and reasonable workplace accommodations.

Housing support—The ADA and Section 504 of the Fair Housing Act both require reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures that will allow individuals with disabilities to access housing. These might include permitting an assistance animal in a space that otherwise restricts pets or allowing an applicant to submit a housing application via a different means than is typically required.

Community integration support—The ADA bans unnecessary separation of individuals who have disabilities and supports service provision in homes and community settings as appropriate. These services could involve home modifications, peer mentorship, or caregiver respite, for example. Such services provide opportunities for family life, social involvement, hobbies, and civic engagement.

It is important that SLPs educate individuals on their right to accommodations because adults with communication and learning disabilities often do not seek accommodations (McGregor et al., 2016). SLPs can

  • help plan and implement supports necessary for adult life;
  • provide education on rights and responsibilities in the postsecondary world;
  • help identify and individualize classroom and workplace accommodations;
  • address skills that are critical in both education and employment settings (e.g., note-taking, organization, critical thinking, and communication with colleagues; Frazier et al., 2019);
  • address the language and literacy skills needed for the responsibilities of adult life (e.g., understanding lease agreements, bank statements, and/or food labels); and
  • promote civic engagement by addressing the skills needed to read and understand election ballots, community newsletters, and programs from a place of worship (Collins & Wolter, 2018).

ASHA Resources

Other Resources

This list of resources is not exhaustive, and the inclusion of any specific resource does not imply endorsement from ASHA.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1994). Secondary to postsecondary education transition planning for students with learning disabilities [Relevant paper].

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Pub. L. No. 110-325, 122 Stat. 3553 (1991).

Collins, G., & Wolter, J. A. (2018). Facilitating postsecondary transition and promoting academic success through language/literacy-based self-determination strategies. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49(2), 176–188.

Frazier, K. F., Whitby, P. J. S., Kucharczyk, S., Perryman, K. L., Thomas, J., Koch, L. C., & Bengtson, E. (2019). Interprofessional education: Teaming for transition from adolescence to adulthood for people with significant disabilities. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 4(3), 492–501.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.

McGregor, K. K., Langenfeld, N., Van Horne, S., Oleson, J., Anson, M., & Jacobson, W. (2016). The university experiences of students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 31(2), 90–102.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794; 34 C.F.R. § 104 (1973).

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