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Don’t Forget to Include College Preparation Goals in the Individual Transition Plan

By Karen Kaplan, MS

Students with individual education plans (IEPs) are generally required to have an individual transition plan when they are in high school.  Most of these transition plans develop goals that address living, working, and recreating in their own communities, but how many address supporting the student in higher education or college?

How many parents think about the different skills required to enjoy and be successful in college?  How many teachers are thinking, and how do I prepare my students to access, engage in, complete, and have a positive experience in college?

How many parents and teachers know of the colleges that provide additional support for those with special needs?  How many teachers inform parents about how to access supports at the college level for their individual?  Shouldn’t all these systems be discussed at the individual transition planning meetings when a student has the desire and capabilities to attend a two- or four-year college?

Here are some possible individual transition planning goals or advice for the student and family:

  1. Schools must encourage parents to take their children on tours of college campuses. Before starting school, students should know where the admission office, bookstore, disability office, bathrooms, library, and cafeteria are. Help them keep a visual map for later reference to A College Student's Guide to Disability Accommodations (

  2. Teachers should Inform parents about 504 plans that can be used to help college personnel support a student who learns differently. Take a look at 504 Plan: Eligibility, Process, What to Expect, and More (  College Advice For Students With A 504 Plan - Campus Explorer  7 things to know about college disability services (

  3. The transition plan should have a goal that helps the student learn about how to support their learning differences at college. They should learn about their rights. Here is some good information: Transition of Students with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education: A Guide for High School Educators.

  4. Applying to, enrolling in, and engaging in college takes planning, organizing, and problem-solving skills. These are all executive functioning skills. So, the IEP and the ITP should always have a new goal of expanding executive functioning skills. Read How to Teach Executive Functioning Skills in Middle and High School (

  5. Parents need to be encouraged to teach executive functioning skills in the home, as explained here: Focus and Thrive: Executive Functioning Strategies for Teens: Tools to Get Organized, Plan Ahead, and Achieve Your Goals: McNulty LCSW-C, Laurie Chaikind: 9781647396510: Books Executive Functioning for Teens: Unlocking Brain Power with Strategies, Activities, and Real-life Stories for Enhanced Focus, Emotional Control, and Organizational Skills: 9798321850657: Sharpe, Jeff: Books Executive Functioning Workbook for Kids: 40 Fun Activities to Build Memory, Flexible Thinking, and Self-Control Skills at Home, in School, and Beyond (Health and Wellness Workbooks for Kids): 9781638070863: Grand PhD BCN, Dr. Sharon: Books

  6. Teachers should write goals that encourage collaboration, as college projects might be assigned, and working as part of a group has rules and systems.

  7. Teachers should write goals on career exploration, to help students realize what types of skills they will need and then how to find schools and courses they may need to achieve their career goals.

  8. Parents should be encouraged to identify interests of their individuals and help them explore jobs and or careers that align with their interests.

  9. Teachers might write goals on how to write a resume, how to search for a job and how to interview.

  10. The speech therapist could write a goal on how to communicate during an interview.

  11. The ITP might address the types of living arrangements that are possible when one attends a college. The ITP might identify the skills needed to live in each type of housing option and then write some short-term goals to support developing those skills. There are residence halls and dormitories, perhaps special interest housing and, of course, campus living (apartments and homes). Finding out the student’s interest and the family’s opinion is key and then developing some goals to teach those skills is important.

  12. Is there a goal on the ITP about shopping and cooking at college?

  13. Is there a goal about keeping living conditions clean?

  14. Is there a goal about money management while attending a college?

  15. Has a goal been written to address how to make friends at college?

Parents, please make sure that you inform your educational team that your child will be attending college. Make sure that there are goals on their individual education plan and individual transition plan that address successful transition to college and in college.

Parents, help your individual to be okay with informing the college disability center of their learning differences. It is nothing to be ashamed of. If the educational professionals at college have NO idea of your child’s needs, their college experience may be unsuccessful. I know professors who wished they had known so they could have modified and accommodated.

Karen Kaplan, MS, is a native San Franciscan. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, in speech pathology and audiology. She minored in special education and obtained her speech therapist and special education credentials in California. Karen worked as a speech therapist for schools for 20 years before opening her own residential and education program for students with autism. She worked in credential programs at Sacramento State University as well as UC Davis and spent 20 years directing private schools for those with autism and similar learning challenges.


Karen founded a non-profit, Offerings, which helps cultures globally to understand those with developmental challenges. For seven years, she founded and facilitated an autism lecture series and resource fair in Northern California. Karen still facilitates an annual Autism Awesomeness event. She is currently consulting, helping families, schools, and centers for children, teens, and adults. Karen has authored three books: Reach Me Teach Me: A Public School Program for the Autistic Child; A Handbook for Teachers and Administrators, On the Yellow Brick Road: My Search for Home and Hope for the Child with Autism, and Typewriting to Heaven… and Back: Conversations with My Dad on Death, Afterlife and Living  (which is not about autism but about having important conversations with those we love).

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