Delivering Transition Services While Homeschooling

What are Transition Services?

Transition services are intended to prepare children to move from the world of school into the world of adulthood. Transition planning begins during high school at the latest. Some of the most important work we can do home-educating our children with exceptional needs is teach them how to transition into their post-high-school life and how to be successful with independent living! In this blog post we will cover some important aspects of transition services commonly offered in public schools and how you can deliver a similar program at home.  You don’t want to miss the skills needed for independent living, skills needed for employment, and even skills needed for being an entrepreneur.

Transition Services and the IDEA

I wanted to spend a moment discussing the intersection of life skills and IDEA since some children who are homeschooled (by state law) are entitled to special education services while they are homeschooled.  If your state does not offer services and you do not plan to graduate your child from your homeschool or plan to send your child to high school sometime before they turn 21 years old you can still be entitled to special education services including transition services. Why 21 years old? Well, public schools are required to provide FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) to “all children residing in the State between the ages of 3 and 21, inclusive, including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school” while Child Find applies to “all children with disabilities residing in the State, including children with disabilities who are homeless children or are wards of the State, and children with disabilities attending private schools, regardless of the severity of their disability, and who are in need of special education and related services, are identified, located, and evaluated.” This includes students who are homeschooled. So what does all this mean?

Joseph at the Bellagio at 11 years old

As a parent, this means you have the right to go to your local school and ask them to assess your child for a learning disability up to 21 years of age and the school must screen your child under Child Find to determine if they need further assessment for learning disabilities.  You can homeschool your child until they finish the learning you want them to accomplish for high school or place them in a local public school starting in 9th grade (high school). Schools are required by federal law to offer your child transition services “beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team” so you can request starting transition services earlier; however, typically the youngest I see transition services start for a child is 14 years of age (about 9th grade). If you are homeschooling you can always start transition services earlier which is what I did for my son Joseph since he has intellectual delay with severely impaired processing speed.  I started transition services for him when he was 7 year old and I am proud of the progress he has made in the last few years.

By federal law, transition services are a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that is designed to a results-oriented process to help a child improve their academic and functional abilities to help them move from high school to post-school activities like college, vocational /trade school, adult services, independent living, or community participation. The transition services should be based on the child’s needs, after taking into consideration their strengths, preferences, and interests to include: instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other adult-living objectives, AND if appropriate developing daily living skills and provisions for a functional vocational evaluation.

One last item to keep in mind as your child grows older is to think about the age of majority in your state. Once your child reaches the age of majority in your state IDEA will transfer over the rights of their education to the child. In order to continue to have full participation in your child’s IEP (including transition services) you may need to gain guardianship of your child or a durable power of attorney for educational purposes.  There may be other forms of guardianship/rights over your child so please check your state law.  Please note that the IEP team should inform you at least one year before your child reaches the age of majority with a statement that your child got notice their educational rights will transfer to them when they reach the age of majority but this does not always happen. So start considering if you will need to take action concerning your child’s educational rights one year before they reach the age of majority.

So with all this in mind, you can homeschool your child and send them to public school later for transition services (anywhere from the start of high school to when they are 18 years old up to 21 years old if you have not graduated your child from your homeschool) or this can serve as a good blueprint to how you can direct transition/vocational activities at home.

Transition Services (Life Skills) and Homeschooling

Functional Vocational Evaluation

Starting with a functional vocational evaluation can help you and your child determine their future path after they complete their education and move on to post-school activities. A Functional Vocational Evaluation (FVE) is an ongoing process that identifies a student’s career interests, work‐related aptitudes and skills and need for training. FVE can rage in price from free to rather costly.  Hopefully the free resources will suffice but if it does not remember you have the right to exercise the Child Find process and request a school conduct screening and evaluations on your child including evaluations for transition services including functional vocational assessments without having to enroll your child into the public school. If you have any issues with the public school come and visit our IEP/504 Assistance group for more help.

A potential FVE could include comprehensive transition assessments, career planning and exploration assessments, interest, abilities & values assessments, career portfolios, post-secondary education & training preparation assessments, employment & career readiness, self-advocacy assessments, self-determination assessments, learning styles & personality profiles, study skills assessments, strengths & limitations assessments, post-secondary independently living skills assessments, adult living objectives and assessments, recreation & leisure assessments, inclusive integration & community participation, and transportation & orientation/mobility assessments. There are even resources and assessments for specific disabilities like  visual impairment, deaf, hard-of-hearing, intellectual disability plus there resources covering mental health tools.

There is a lot of information in each of the areas above and too much information to cover in this blog; however, I am going to leave you with at least one FREE resource for each areas listed above to give you an idea of an appropriate assessment.

Comprehensive Transition Assessment


Career Planning and Exploration Assessment

Career Portfolios

Post-secondary Education & Training Preparation Assessments

Self-advocacy and Self-determination Assessment 

Learning Styles & Personality Profiles

Study Skills Assessment

Strengths & Limitations Assessment

Post-secondary Independent Living Skills Assessment

Recreation & Leisure Assessment

Inclusive Integration & Community Participation

Transportation and Orientation & Mobility Assessment

  • O&M IEP Goal Bank
    • This works great as a checklist for items to work on when it comes to O&M
  • O&M Checklist
  • O&M Resources
  • For Transportation google Public Transportation Disability Orientation [name of state]. Then you should be able to find resources or contact information to ask about Public Transportation Orientation for Adults with Disabilities. 

Why are You Mentioning Transition Services?

I hope I have not lost you, wondering, why in the heck is she talking about transition services when I thought we are supposed to be talking about life skills and homeschooling?!  I thought it was important to let you know your child’s rights for transition services for public school AND we are going to use some of this information to guide our discussion on what life skills you may want to focus on in educating your child at home. So transition services are based on the child’s needs, after taking into consideration their strengths, preferences, and interests to include: instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other adult-living objectives, AND if appropriate developing daily living skills and provisions for a functional vocational evaluation. Let’s look at how we can address these things at home in our home-education programs!

Instruction

Don’t be afraid to create your own curriculum to meet your child’s needs if you cannot find something specific for them.  Also, don’t be afraid to use something for a “new” purpose! My son Joseph, as I mentioned earlier, is my child on a life skills track. Joseph is baby D out of my surviving quadruplets.  He has many medical diagnoses that impact him educationally including autism, intellectual delay, visual impairment (blind in one eye), ataxic cerebral palsy, and severely impaired processing speed. I was told repeatedly by professionals that I should have low expectations for him, and yet, at every turn, Joseph has astonished me!  Though he may need care I know he is capable of so much more than the professional ever gave him credit for! In keeping our expectations high, I thought it was important to think about potential career opportunities for him even if they seem a bit far-fetched!

Temple Grandin, probably one of the most famous people with autism, is an amazing speaker!  If you ever get a chance to see her speak you will be inspired! I was fortunate enough to figure out one important thing she said, which is to use fixations to help supply motivation for other activities! Having three children with special needs who were all the same age I figured that out the hard way, but Ms. Grandin has so much wisdom when it comes to children with autism to share! 

Image of Boy holding STEM Toy
Joseph is holding a STEM toy he put together and programmed by Little Bits

One of the many interests Joseph has is electrical gadgets! He loves to get some new electronic gadgets in the box.  Even though he was 7 he would take the time to try to read the instruction manual with his one good eye!  When he found the serial number or other identifying information for the gadget he would search the internet for videos that would explain and demo the product (At first I didn’t even know he could do that!). We noticed this was an obsession for him! So I asked him if he wanted to learn more about electricity and maybe see what someone like an electrician would need to know to be able to make repairs to small electronics.  He was excited by the possibility!  So I bought a small Snap Circuits set for him to try out.  He LOVED it! Then I bought a larger set that he is still working on as it comes with 750 experiments! His ability to learn, and understand, some of the principles of electrical currents lets me know he has the ability to learn how to do small electronic repairs and may even be able become a journeyman electrician one day.

What it takes to be a mechanic and maybe work on small engines, like you could be another example of a fixation for Joseph is cars and driving.  He wants to drive SO bad!  Then I have to remind him that he cannot drive since he is blind in one eye and his other eye has reduced peripheral vision plus he has issues with slow response time due to his low processing speed.  He just would not be safe on the road (for himself or others).  He breaks my heart when he asks me if he can drive when he gets to heaven and has both his eyes! 😭  Of course my baby, you can drive in heaven!  In the meantime, I told him why don’t we look at the person to add a motor to a bicycle, repair lawn mowers, or even a car mechanic allowing you to fix broken cars!  He was excited by that idea! I mean, dang, what I wouldn’t try and do for that boy when he talks to you like that?!

Joseph working on a Perkins Brailler
Joseph working on a Perkins Brailler

So I started a search. There are not a lot of resources out there for small engine repair I could show Joseph, who was 10 at the time, so I went to the best place where you can find videos on pretty much ANYTHING, YouTube! As it turned out there are a lot of videos on a variety of small engine repair! There is even a small engine repair course along with videos on running a small engine repair business! Joseph started watching a few of the videos but lost interest after a bit.  I think his interest got sidetracked versus dropping this issue as I am sure it will come up again as he gets older and his siblings get their driver’s permit but I will be ready for when that interest resurfaces!

Joseph has also taken lessons in how to write Braille. I wanted him to learn Braille because he is blind in his right eye and has peripheral vision loss in his left eye. Since he has a high risk of losing his vision and he has slow processing speed I wanted Joseph to get a head start on learning Braille! LOL Joseph LOVES using a Brailler and I feel certain we could find a way to utilize that skill for a potential profession in the future too! Most skills have the ability to be turned into a potential way to make some money!

I hope this gives you some insight on how you can develop instruction to address a child’s fixations or interests. Now let’s look at related services.

Related Services

Related services from a school means therapy services.  This can be the common services like occupational, physical, and speech therapy along with other services that are seen less often in public schools like art, dance, and music therapy.   Other related services include: assistive technology, audiology, counseling/psychological services, orientation and mobility therapy, travel training, recreation services, rehabilitation counseling, and social work. Now that we know what can be under related services let’s look at how we can supply these services from home.

Occupational, Physical, and Speech Therapy

If you have a child with exceptional needs then you likely have had your child in occupational, physical, and/or speech therapy since they were born or you got involved in therapy when your child was in Early Intervention(EI). Once you homeschool you are likely using your child’s state Medicaid to pay for therapy services or your private insurance. Personally, I am a fan of medical-based therapy versus educationally-based therapy (which is also what you get in EI services). Medical therapy looks to make a child “whole” across all areas of life while Educational therapy looks to have a child be “functional” within the educational setting.  These two outcomes are QUITE different. Medical therapy wants to try and bring your child to a point where they are “typical” to other peers at home, school, and in the community.  Educational therapy looks to make a child “functional” in the school environment so the child can operate with reasonable ability in the classroom, on school property in general, and access school services. So if your child needs occupational, physical, or speech therapy please continue to seek therapy services with your child’s medical insurance.

Assistive Technology

Joseph with his Kindle waiting for his doctor’s appointment.

How to access assistive technology (AT) can be puzzling but maybe we can go over a few ideas to help you out. First, if your child needs AT for speech such as an AAC device, try and have your child’s speech therapist to recommend and trial some devices for your child.  Then you can work with your child’s doctor to get a device through your medical insurance.  If you cannot do that then both Android tablets and iPads have apps available that will turn the device into an AAC but make sure you get a good case to put on the device like an OtterBox if your child likes to throw things or drops things often! Joseph did not tend to throw things in anger but with his ataxic cerebral palsy he fell and dropped items a lot!  So we needed a good case on his device along with a protection plan.  We use a Kindle as it is inexpensive and there are a reasonable amount of apps. iPads have more educational and therapy based apps but the device can be quite expensive.  So choose the device that best works for your budget and your child’s needs!

Besides AAC devices there are a whole host of devices out there from adaptive equipment like CCTV, adaptive keyboards and mouse/buttons, audio records, timers, reading guides, seat cushions, FM listening system, calculators, writing support, graphic organizers, PECS, and so much more! There are a ton of apps and devices (both low and high tech) out there that I could write pages and pages trying to cover it all! Assistive Technology touches ALL areas of education from every educational subject and for every type of disability.

As homeschoolers please feel free to let your child use AT in their education at home.  You can either stick to AT they get in school or use more high-tech solutions. Some AT we utilize in our home are the following:

Amazon Alexa Devices: My house has an Amazon Echo in the kitchen/living room area where we often are working on our school work. I use the Echo to remind the children what they are supposed to be doing from starting their school day, when to eat lunch, when to get ready for bed, and ect.  I love it because it takes a lot of pressure off of me to remember to tell my children these things in a timely fashion (as I have ADHD myself and can be a bit scatterbrained or obsessed in what I am doing) and the kids do not feel like I am constantly after them to make sure they are doing the things they are supposed to be doing. The kids use Alexa to play games by enabling skills, they use Alexa to answer questions including math facts, and they use it to play music while they work or play. Alexa can help with accessibility in a home with its smart house features too. Besides the Echo we have Dots because with the Alexa app on my phone I can use the Echo and Dots as an intercom to talk to my children when needed!  Amazon just came out with a plug-in version recently too.  It is inexpensive and the Alexa devices are handy to have for many reasons.  I happen to have the Amazon Alexa devices because I bought the first generation of Amazon Echo that came out but ANY smart speaker would work in the same capacity.  So if you have a Google smart speaker, an Apple smart speaker or another device many smart speakers can perform the same functions we use with Alexa so check out how you may be able to incorporate.

Joseph using a calculator to work on his 4th grade level math.

Math AT: All three of my surviving quadruplets have dyscalculia (a specific learning disability in math). They struggle with math and math facts due to low working memory, poor processing speed, and issues with executive functioning. We have used several items for AT.  My children use a low-tech AT device, a multiplication chart, for their multiplication work. This is an acceptable accommodation commonly used in public schools so I definitely have no issues with allowing my children to use it too! I also let them use a calculator if they are doing work math independently as a calculator is also a common AT tool used in public schools. What I enjoy about homeschooling is we get to try other AT that may or may not be used in schools.

Since my children still struggle with basic math facts I had to find something entertaining for them.  I found a couple of apps that fit the bill! The first app is called Medieval Math Battle. My boys enjoy playing the game and it makes learning math facts a lot more fun than using flash cards! Joseph also enjoys Prodigy Math Game which you can play on the computer or as an app, Math V Zombies,  and Dragonbox’s math apps. There are quite a few math apps out there for both Android and Apple devices.

Writing AT: My children have issues with fine motor skills and hand strength.  This makes most writing tasks even more difficult for them so we look to get help using AT.  Some AT we have used for the children have been high-contrast keyboards, large button keyboards, and large print keyboards. I even like the large print keyboards and I use the 5-color Azio backlit keyboard. It is great and you can control the brightness of the backlighting. Make sure you pick up a warranty with the keyboards if you can because you will likely have problems with the keyboards in less than 2 years if it gets a reasonable amount of use!

We have also used pencil weights and grips. The weights are useful for Joseph who has a weak pencil grasp and his writing is super light on the page. Pencils come in a variety of hardnesses so we decided to get him some No. 1 pencils which have a softer graphite composite in them making the marks he makes on the page darker. My other two children, James and Margaret, have the opposite problem.  Due to their sensory issues they push the pencil too hard and break the tip of the pencil, OFTEN, and would want to get up all the time to resharpen the pencil!  Quickly we were running out of pencils! LOL  Since shorter pencils help with pencil grip I thought I would try those. I bought some golf pencils as they are shorter and have a tougher graphite composite. Those disappeared in my house quickly as the children did not like them and I would find them in the trash!  LOL   So next I tried some pencils with a number 3 hardness and some drafting pencils with thicker lead making them harder to break. Those two solutions worked for them and the pencil wars finally ceased in my house!  LOL

Joseph also uses a few other writing tools.  He has a slant board for writing and another for reading. He also uses a magnifier to help him see small print. What he prefers though is to use a tablet so he can hold it as close to his face as he likes to bring things into focus.  Since he has a Kindle tablet we often use apps to assist with writing like speech-to-text apps along with text-to-speech apps and of course we use grammar editing apps like Grammarly and Microsoft Word. Microsoft has even developed a new transcription program to help catch all that you have to say even when you have multiple people in a conversation!

To help that aspiring writer develop their ideas so they can get them down on paper there are a variety of graphic organizers out there.  Schools will often use paper-based graphic organizers. I thought there were only graphic organizers for writing paragraphs but as it turns out there are graphic organizers for a variety of subjects including math, reading comprehension, reading strategies, vocabulary, social studies, science, and even art!   There are electronic versions too of graphic organizers including apps (Apple and Android) and there are some programs and extensions that can be used on Chromebooks too!

I could talk on and on about assistive technology (AT).  There are so many low and high tech options out there for a large range of issues. Please use AT as you see fit to assist your child in their learning.  If you need more ideas about AT and how to use AT please come and visit us in our Facebook group Homeschooling Special (Needs) Kids.

Audiology, Counseling, and Psychological Services

Audiologists from a school really are just hearing screening looking for hearing loss in children that could impact their learning.  This is something the homeschooler can do using their private insurance or state medicaid. My children were extreme preemies (born 13 weeks premature) and just being born premature is a risk factor for learning disabilities including hearing loss. My children were screened when they were babies, again as toddlers, and we had another screening done with they were 8 years old as James has an issue with “mishearing” sounds and words along with not seeming to hear us when we were talking loudly to him yet when we whispered he could hear us just fine (which we now know is an auditory processing disorder [APD/CAPD] and more commonly seen in children with ASD, ADHD, and Dyslexia).

The same is true for counseling and psychological services.  If your child needs those services and you homeschool I would recommend you use your private medical insurance or state medicaid to get your child services.  If your insurance does not cover psychological services or your child does not have state medicaid you MIGHT be able to get services from your school district IF you live in a state that provides some services to children who are homeschooled. If you need guidance on if your state provides services to children who are homeschooled please come and visit us in our Facebook group Homeschooling Special (Needs) Kids.

Orientation and Mobility Therapy

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Therapy is a service often given to children who are visually impaired in some way. Orientation is the process of using sensory information to establish and maintain one’s position in an environment. Mobility is the process of moving within one’s environment safely and efficiently.  The goal of O&M instruction for persons who have visual impairments is safe travel in any environment as independently as is possible. If your child needs O&M services you can often get them through your insurance.  O&M therapists can be hard to find which may either lead you to try and give O&M services yourself or lead you to a school for the blind. You can either look to into trying to get O&M services through the school if that is allowed in your state for children who are homeschooled, you can see if you can get a referral from the school for where you might be able to get O&M services, or if you have the funds you can ask the school to let the O&M therapists that you are looking to retain on of them outside their contractual hours with the school. I participate in a school choice program in my state and I have used the funds from that program to retain tutors and therapists outside their contractual hours with their school so this is a good technique to use if you have funds for private services.

Travel Training

Travel training helps people with disabilities have access to more opportunities for employment in the community, college, job training programs, and recreational opportunities. For many, driving a car was not possible, due to a visual, physical, or cognitive disability. Public transportation systems can be inaccessible due to structural barriers. Still other individuals were unable to use the transportation systems that were available, because they lacked the training, or “know-how,” to use these systems safely.

Most any town that has a transportation system will have a local or state agency over the transportation. That is the agency name you want to look for when you do a Google search for Public Transportation Disability Orientation [name of state and/or transportation agency]. Then you should be able to find resources or contact information to ask about Public Transportation Orientation for Adults with Disabilities.

This wraps up many of the related services your child might have received in the public schools.  I hope my examples of how I supply these services as a part of our homeschool day will help give you some ideas of what can be done! If you have any other questions please join our Facebook group Homeschooling Special (Needs) Kids and we will do what we can to provide more assistance.

Community Experiences

If you homeschool then you probably are giving your children some community experiences without even realizing it! Community experiences covers some of the following things:

  • Your child participating in a club or extracurricular activity
  • Your child participating in a sports program in the community
  • Your child participating in recreation or leisure activities in the community
  • Your child can go shopping independently 
  • Your child can go into a restaurant and order independently
  • Your child has proper etiquette in a variety of social and community settings
  • Your child can name leisure activities that they enjoy in their free time

Some things you may not have done yet that would be considered community experiences would be:

  • Your child being able to read and follow directions, maps, signs, and transportation schedules
  • Your child receive tutoring assistance to pass the written driver’s license examination (if they are able to drive though I think this is good for all people to know)
  • Your child has the skills needed to use public transportation in your community
  • Your child establishes a checking and savings account and complete bank transactions
  • Your child knows how to utilize the Post Office
  • Your child is registered to vote (if eligible) and knows how to use the voting machines
  • Your child has the skills to access appropriate medical care
  • Your child can identify appropriate community resources that could support them after high school
  • Your child has completed an application for federal/financial assistance (and if appropriate SSI, SSDI, Title XIX) with assistance from family/friends.

As you can see the list of community skills you may have not completed are not too difficult to accomplish. Many of these skills I have shown examples of earlier on how you can teach your child these community skills while homeschooling. Other skills may be more difficult.  If you have any issues reach out to local community resources where you can get additional help like your local regional center or department of developmental disabilities in your state.

Development of Daily Living Skills

Joseph’s homemade plush of a pirate which helped to teach sewing skills!

Daily living skills are adaptive skills you may have taught your children when they were younger (though many of us still work with our children on these skills for many years) such as how to dress themselves, how to take off their clothes, tie their shoes, basic hygiene, and more.  Adaptive skills are often grouped into some main categories such as Self-care, Communication Skills, Self-Direction, Social Skills, Leisure Skills, Home/School Living, Functional Academics, Community Use, Health and Safety, and Work Skills.

The skills you want to focus on will change as your child ages. The site, FamilyEduaction, has a decent list of skills sorted by age that can be a useful starting point. The most comprehensive list I found was put together by the Michigan Department of Education. It is a life skills list that is 17 pages long covering what children are expected to be able to do before withdrawing from school at the end of 10th grade. This is a great list and will be helpful in guiding parents on what their child should know as they are coming to the age of majority.

Entrepreneurship

Joseph with his siblings James and Margaret who are surviving quadruplets

One often overlooked skill that is traditionally not taught in public schools is entrepreneurship. I read a really enlightening story called, Food, Flower, and Filth. This article really highlighted to me the low expectations public schools often have for children with exceptional needs.  As homeschoolers we can take the initiative to teach our children with exceptional needs many skills and traits that can encourage entrepreneurship. Often people will dismiss young adults with exceptional needs as not having the ability to run a small business yet there are many stories that show it can be done. There is no need to relegate our children to jobs like landscaping, food services, or custodial work unless that is the work they desire to do as a profession; even if we have to pave the way for our children by starting a business (something many of us have done before) as we continue to have the highest expectations for our children!

It can be hard to find a curriculum that focuses on entrepreneurship but Venture Lab has a great program that is not only free it also spans from elementary school to high school levelDave Ramsey also has an entrepreneurship program for high school level students that is well developed. There are some podcasts out there discussing entrepreneurship that your child can listen to get inspiration and ideas to get you started off working on an entrepreneurship mindset.

Conclusion: Providing transition services while homeschooling

I hope this post has shown you some ideas and information on how you can provide transition services to children if you are homeschooling.  All the links in this post take you to either affiliated links for AESA (which do not add any cost to you) to associated products listed in the blog post or to source material used to write this post. Please take times to click on all the links to enjoy all the source available!

Some states provide services to children who are homeschooled and you can take advantage of that.  If you are in a state that does not provide services to students who are homeschooled then I hope I have given enough guidance and examples to you so you can feel confident in providing similar services to your child at home.  If you have any questions, or could use more ideas/guidance, please come and visit us on Facebook in our homeschooling group [Homeschooling Special (Needs) Kids].

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