Transition from Child Based to Adult Based Services in Behavioral Health

From Child to Adult

Transition to adulthood is difficult for all young adults, but if you are a young adult who utilizes Behavioral Health or Substance Use Disorder services it can be confusing and overwhelming. It is also difficult for the parents and guardians who support them. Moving from child based to adult based services takes some preparation to make it easier and it ideally should start a year or more before the shift. Depending on the intensity of need and the way that the disorder is affecting the young adult’s decision making skills, it can be helpful for you, as the guardian, to check and see if your youth’s current providers have transition support.

  • If transition planning is not available, you can go and visit companion adult based service providers to get information on how their system of support works. You can also ask how to find a new provider.
  • If this is a young adult on Medicaid, the regional Behavioral Health Organization should have contact information and locations for these providers.
  • If you are under private pay or employer based insurance, you will need to reach out to your youth’s current behavior health provider and/or therapist to see if they have some recommendations or can do a transition plan of care.
  • If you go to two different providers for therapy and medication management you will need to connect with both.

Behavioral health and substance use disorder privacy laws have some very strict rules in place around shared information concerning the youth’s treatment plan, and if you are not a part of a wraparound or WISe program, you may have a more difficult time with providers responding to your inquiries. Ask for generalized information that can be applied to anyone about how the system works. This keeps it from being about a specific person and makes it easier for behavioral health professionals to share their processes with you.

The young adult accessing these services may want to participate in this process themselves. This can allow you to be a side-by-side support and they can give permission for you to be with them as they explore. Understand that once they are shifted to adult services, unless you have guardianship or they are determined to be incompetent or a danger to themselves or others, you will no longer have any decision-making power. Doing ground work ahead of time allows for a smoother transition and helps them maintain care longer.

Things to look at when planning for transition:

  • Wait times to see the provider.
  • Is there medication management out of the same office?
  • Do they have an adult based wraparound type system?
  • How accessible is the building and is it on a bus or transit line?
  • Does the adult provider have a relationship with the current provider?
  • Who is another trusted support person if your young adult no longer wishes you as a parent or guardian to be involved?
  • What community supports need to be in place to for your young adult to be successful (smart phone apps, state community living supports like food stamps, SSI, disability bus pass, etc.)?

The key to prepping is creating a communication pathway ahead of time so that you can support your young adult as they transition. In the Behavioral Health System, at age 13 youth can demand that they make their own decisions in their care. This means starting at age 11 or 12 can help them in making smarter choices where their own care is concerned. Working to become a trusted support for both the therapists and your youth, as well as starting the conversations early, makes all the difference in the world.

World Psychiatry

US National Library of Medicine

Mental Health Services for Young People

Transition Between Child and Adolescent Mental Health 

Can I still walk with my classmates at the end of my Senior Year, if I participate in a transition plan?

Information on Transition Plans

Students often ask the question “If I participate in a transition plan between the age of 18-21, does that mean I can still walk with my classmates at the end of my senior, or fourth, year?”  The answer is a resounding YES!!

In 2005 State Legislation passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5450 – “Kevin’s Law”.  This law insures that young people who have been enrolled in high school can attend and participate in graduation ceremonies with their peers, even if they will continue at the school with services to age 21.

The law does not guarantee that a student will be able to attend school until age 21, as that is determined as part of the IEP at age 16. This law states that a student with an IEP and who has a plan in their IEP that includes attending school until age 21 may walk in the graduation ceremony with students of his or her own age.

More info? Ask us! Fill out our Get Help form and find out how we can help you!

High School Transition and Graduation

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA)

The purpose of IDEA is to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.

Federal Definition of Transition (IDEA) 300.43 Transition Services

(a) Transition services means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that –

(1) Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability that facilitates the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;

(2) Is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and includes –

(i) Instruction;

(ii) Related services;

(iii) Community experiences;

(iv) The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and

(v) If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation.

(b) Transition services for children with disabilities may be special education, if provided as specially designed instruction, or a related service, if required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.

Washington State Administration Code of Transition (WAC) WAC 392-172A-01190 TRANSITION SERVICES

(a) Transition services means a coordinated set of activities for a student eligible for special education that –

(1) Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the student to facilitate his or her movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment, supported employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;

(2) Is based on the individual student’s needs, taking into account the students strengths, preferences, and interests; and includes –

(a) Instruction;

(b) Related services;

(c) Community experiences;

(d) The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and

(e) If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation.

(b)Transition services for students eligible for special education may be special education, if provided as specially designed instruction, or a related service, if required to assist a student eligible for special education to benefit from special education.

*Note that the only difference between IDEA and WAC is the term child with a disability vs. student eligible for special education.

  1. In layman terms what does it all mean?

In general, transition is a set of goals, objectives and services that layout a plan of action that address the skills necessary for the students success upon graduation and beyond, i.e.: post-secondary education, life skills, financial, graduation, transportation, vocational, housing, employment, etc.

  1. When are transition services required to be on the students IEP?

IDEA 300.320/WAC 392-172A-03090(J) state that transition services are required to begin not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the student turns 16, or younger if the IEP team determines it to be appropriate.

  1. Why should a student’s IEP focus on transition?

Transition goals focus on a particular course of study and a coordinated set of activities that enable a student to meet graduation requirements.  This makes for a productive fulfilling high school experience that prepares the student for options and opportunities after high school.

  1. What do you do to get prepared for transition?

School personnel should be conducting transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and where appropriate, independent living skills.  One example of this assessment could be a Functional Vocational Evaluation (FVE). (Note that there are several tools to use to conduct assessment that looks at all areas of the student’s need.)

Parents and students can do informal assessments at home by asking questions like:

  • What are my child’s dreams?
  • What are my dreams for my child?
  • What supports or training does my child need or already have
  • in order to learn in the areas of home living,
  • employment, education, recreation and leisure, and
  • community use?
  • What classes does my child need or is interested in that are
  • needed to graduate?
  • What are my child’s strengths?

*See the transition checklist, self-determination planning and high school plan in the back of this packet for more information.

  1. What is involved in a Functional Vocational Evaluation? (FVE)?

IDEA 300.43(2) (v)/WAC 392-172A-01190(B) (v)

A FVE has many different components that can be used.  Typically teachers will conduct a student interest inventory.  This helps narrow a student’s interest in a particular career related area.  Students, parents and teachers will either, in writing or orally, address strengths and areas of needs that the student has.  Observations should be conducted to see the student’s behavior and learning styles in different settings.  In addition there is a large variety of formal assessments that the school can conduct such as the COMPASS, the CAPS, the DAT, etc.  Ask your team what assessment tools would be appropriate for your student and why they were recommended.

  1. Who should be on the IEP team regarding transition?

IDEA 300.321/WAC 392-172A-03095(2)(A)

The same participants of any IEP should be in attendance (parents, general education teacher, special education teacher, a school representative who is knowledgeable about available resources, a person who can interpret evaluations, other agencies that have knowledge of the student, and the student must be invited to the IEP meeting when discussing transition).  It is also appropriate for outside agencies such as Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), a Disability Coordinator from a local college, or other professionals that may be able to assist in meeting the student’s needs.

  1. What is required to be on the IEP regarding transition?

IDEA 300.320(7)(1)/WAC 392-172A-03090

Appropriate measurable post secondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and when appropriate independent living skills and a specific course of study to assist the student in reaching goals and in the transfer of rights at age of majority.

  1. What is an appropriate measurable post secondary goal?

Goals or outcomes should guide the student’s statement of “transitional service needs” (the course of study). Course work is a specific set of classes or studies that assist a student in meeting the needs that are outlined in the student’s high school plan and path to graduation. An example would be the student’s schedule of required classes like English, Math, life skills, cooking, etc. (this course could be determined as early as 6th or 7th grade) and “needed transition services” (the coordinated set of activities). An example would be Employment: Name the activity, such as working in the student store, and name the agency responsible for the activity, the school.  You repeat this step in the IEP using each area of the student’s need that was determined by the assessment, such as independent living skills, education and training of a skill.  Remember to name the “who, what and when.”

From this, the course of study and coordinated set of activities, you can write the goal(s).  The goal(s) should clearly describe the desired post-school outcomes on the student’s IEP and link the student’s needs. Preferences and interests, along with the services, supports and resources needed by the student to make the most out of the high school experience and the desired post-school outcomes should guide the entire IEP and educational program for the student.

  1. Do I need to have goals and objectives on a transition IEP?

That is determined by the team and is based on how the student will graduate.  A student who is graduating by taking some form of the HSPE would not have objectives on the IEP, only goals.  A student who is taking some alternative measure to meet State standard like a portfolio would be required to have both goal and objective.  (IEP transition goal example)

Goal: Perform the required job skills necessary to work in the student store.

Objective 1:  Tony will have on task behavior while at work with no more than 3 reminders.  (See attached behavior plan with current levels.)

Objective 2:  Tony will utilize his current level (3rd grade) math skills, with use of a calculator to appropriately add purchases with 80% accuracy.

Objective 3:  Tony will appropriately take money and give the correct amount of change 3 out of 5 times without assistance, only monitoring.


Goal:  Will utilize communication device to appropriately get daily needs met.

Objective 1: When asked “what do you need” in a variety of daily living settings, Susan will appropriately select a response from her communication device 3 out 5 times over the period of 1 month.

Objective 2:  When the teacher/staff member do not immediately respond, Susan will remain calm and re-state her need 3 out of 5 times over the next 2 months.

  1. What is the age of majority?

IDEA 300.520/WAC 392-172A-05135

The public agency is required to notify parents and students beginning one year prior (at 17) to the student turning 18 years old that all rights of the parents transfer to the student.  If the student has been declared incompetent by a court of law then all the rights transfer to the legal guardian. (Note: You must go to court and file to become the legal guardian of anyone who is 18 or older including birth parents.)

  1. Does that mean that once my student turns 18 years old, I am not involved in the IEP?

No, you can be invited by your student, or you could enact the special rule under federal law 300.520.  This states that a student who has turned 18 years old and has not been declared incompetent can be determined to not have the ability to provide informed consent with respect to the child’s educational program.  Thus the public agency must appoint someone to ensure appropriate representation.

  1. What is Self Determination?

Self determination is the attitudes, abilities and skills that lead people to define goals for themselves and to take the initiative to reach these goals.

  1. Why is Self Determination Important?

Self determination is about making choices and learning from those choices.  It’s about knowing yourself, your strengths and weakness and having the ability to communicate those in a positive manner which in turn promotes growth of a person.  Students need to know themselves and how to effectively communicate to others their abilities and needs.  This is a skill that a person needs to learn and have modeled for him/her over a period of time to successfully master this important life skill.  *See the self determination chart in the back of the packet for ways to promote self determination.

Graduation Requirements

Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) the Federal government determined that all children regardless of disability, limited English language abilities, ethnic background, or economic status have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, state mandated proficiency levels in the area of reading, writing, math and social studies.  In 2000 the Washington State Board of Education approved four new statewide graduation requirements to ensure compliance with NCLB.

  1. Read with comprehension, Write with skill, and Communicate effectively and responsibly in a variety of ways and settings.
  2. Know and Apply the CORE concepts and principles of mathematics; social, physical and life sciences; civics and history; geography; the arts; and health and fitness.
  3. Think Analytically, Logically and Creatively, and integrate experience and knowledge to form reasoned judgments and solve problems.
  4. Understand the importance of work and how performance, effort and decisions directly affect future career and educational opportunities.
  5. What are the graduation requirements?

You need to check with your school district regarding their graduation requirements.  All public schools within Washington State have to meet at least the State standard, but most have a higher level of requirements that students must meet in order to graduate.  Below is the State class and credit requirement. You can fill in your school district’s required credits.

SUBJECT Minimum State Graduation Requirements MinimumRequirements for your School District
English 3 Credits
Math 2 Credits
Science(one must be a lab) 2 Credits
Social Studies(including U.S. and WA
State history)
2.5 Credits
World Language(same language) 0 Credits
Visual or Performing Arts 1 Credit
Health and Fitness 2 Credits
OccupationalEducation 1 Credit
Electives 5.5 Credits
TOTAL 19 Credits

In addition to certain classes and specific amount of credits, the State requires each student to complete the following:

  1. High School and Beyond Plan:  This is a plan on how the student will meet graduation requirements and their goals for after high school.  *For a student receiving special education, this could come from the transition section on the IEP.
  2. Credit Requirements:  A schedule of approved classes that would meet all of the above course requirements that then meet credit requirements.  *For a student receiving special education this could come from the transition section on the IEP (course of study).
  3. Complete a Culminating Project:  This project is intended to assist students in understanding the connection between school and the real world.  There are several different ways in which students can meet this requirement.  *For a student receiving special education this could come from the transition section on the IEP (coordinated set of activities).
  4. Earn a Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) or Certificate of Individual Achievement (CIA):  This is a certificate that shows that a student has mastered a minimum set of skills that the State has determined appropriate and is demonstrated by the State Standard Assessment.  In Washington State this is known as the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE).  To earn a CAA a student must pass the HSPE with/without accommodations.  To earn a CIA a student receiving special education must pass the HSPE with modifications or portfolio.

*(Note: State approved modification continues to change; check with your State and local district for current information.)

  1. What or who determines how my student, who receives special education, graduates?

The IEP team, of which you and your student are a part, determines the appropriate course studies and HSPE modifications.  It is the IEP and transition plan that guides the student to successfully meet the local and State graduation requirements.  It is the monitoring of the IEP and transition plan that ensures that the student who receives special education meets the NCLB standard of high expectations, thus enabling them to receive a diploma

  1. Can the school wave credits or give pass/fail grades?

Yes to both. Schools have the ability to substitute class credits such as a subject taught in a resource room class vs. a subject taught in a general education class.  Schools can also give a pass/fail grade vs. a letter grade.  Be careful with pass/fail grades because they get no points towards students’ Grade Point Average (GPA); they will only get a credit.  Both methods need to be addressed in the IEP meeting when doing transition planning.  It is important to know where the student wants to go after school so that they meet all the requirements needed to continue to pursue their after high school goals.

  1. Will my student with a disability have the option to get a regular diploma?

Yes, it is the school’s, parent’s and student’s responsibility to make sure that the student has an array of options available in order to meet local and State standards.  The student’s transcript is the only place where it would show the course of study the student took in order to meet that standard.  An example of what would show on a transcript would be the CAA or the CIA.

  1. Can my student with a disability participate in the graduation ceremony with his/her class and still go back to school the next year?

Yes, in Washington State a student in special education who has not yet met his/her IEP goals would still be able to go through the graduation ceremony. The student can come back to school the following year to complete IEP goals. Usually this is related to the transition plan of the IEP.  Make sure that this is discussed at the IEP meetings so everyone clearly understands.

  1. I have a student who is not in special education but is on a Section 504. Is this student eligible to earn a CIA?

No, students on 504 plans must take the HSPE with or without accommodations; they must earn a CAA. Talk with your 504 team to determine the options available to meet this requirement.

The PAVE Parent Training and Information Program may include information on State or Federal laws regarding the rights of individuals with disabilities. While this is provided to inform or make one aware of these rights, legal definitions, or laws/regulations, it is not providing legal representation or legal advice. The recipient understands that this is information is to educate them not to provide them with legal representation.