Transition To Adulthood

boy with friend helping him


The purpose of school-based transition planning is to assist students and their families for life after high school. In Wisconsin, students with disabilities turning 14 years of age are required to have a Postsecondary Transition Plan (PTP). The student must be invited to their IEP meeting at this time, and the IEP team develops the transition plan together. It is important for the student to take the lead as much as possible in their IEP meetings. All IEPs are designed to help the student become college and career ready (CCR IEP).

The transition plan must include measurable postsecondary goals written for when the student exits high school. This applies to the areas of employment (ie., working full or part-time), education/training (ie., attending college, a short-term certificate program, receiving on the job training) and when appropriate, independent living (ie., caring for one’s own health and medical needs, living away from home and finding recreational opportunities). To decide these goals, transition assessments are conducted on an ongoing basis to explore the student’s strengths and needs. This is also a time when families and the student need to start thinking about the age of consent. When the student turns 18, they will have more legal rights, so exploring options such as Supported Decision-Making and/or guardianship prior to age 18 is important.

Once the goals are decided, the IEP team will plan transition services and activities the student will participate in while in high school. The team will also help the student choose classes that will help them reach their goals. To assist with meeting these goals, adult agencies are often invited to provide
additional support.

A student with a disability has the right to attend school until they graduate with a regular diploma or until the age of 21. If a student, with their family, decide to stay in school until age 21, the school district is responsible for providing transition programming like vocational skills, life skills training and other community programming. The programming will likely be provided outside of the school building. The following resources can assist a family with the transition process:


Moving from pediatrics into the adult health care system is called Health Care Transition (HCT). HCT can involve finding new doctors, going to a new hospital, deciding who makes decisions, learning how to stay healthy, using the health care system and so much more. Starting at age 12, youth and families can stay a step ahead by filling out a transition readiness assessment and by building skills needed to be successful in the adult health care system. Families need to be aware that changes in privacy and the ability to consent to some treatments may start as early as 12 years old. Find more resources:


Wisconsin Independent Living Centers (ILCs) are regional, non-profit organizations that help people with disabilities achieve and maintain productive lives in their communities.

The Wisconsin Independent Living Centers provide 5 core services:
1) Information & Referral
2) Independent Living Skills Training
3) Peer Support
4) Advocacy
5) Transition Services

Transition services offered by ILCs include facilitating the transition of youth with disabilities as they enter adulthood and focus on goals related to education, employment and independent living.

To locate your local ILC and to learn which specific services they offer, visit

Youth in wheelchair on a laptop with a adult looking on next to her.


As your child reaches adulthood, there may be new legal considerations. These could include Supported Decision-Making Agreements, Guardianship, Power of Attorney for Health Care, special needs trusts, and others. It is important that the individual with the special need/disability has a say in their own future. No matter the tool used to help the individual be safe, the individual’s preferences should be taken into account. The best decisions are made together. The person with a special need/disability should have as much decision-making power as possible.
More information on these and other legal tools can be found at:

Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources (GWAAR) Guardianship Support Center. To utilize GWAAR service, you must be 17 and half or older. GWAAR provides legal information about adult guardianships only and/or people transitioning into adulthood.


Young man in a wheelchair using a laptop.


  • Your county Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) provides information on a broad range of programs and services, helps people understand the various long-term care options available to them, helpspeople apply for programs and benefits, and serves as the access point for publicly funded long-term care. They will help with Medicaid, Long-Term Supports, transportation, home modifications and more.
    Find your ADRC at:
  • The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) works with students with disabilities who are transitioning from high school to employment and training. DVR works with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the Department of Health Services (DHS) to help students have a smooth transition from school to work and community services.
    Find more information at:

There are also resources to help you look at the big picture of transition:

Smiling young women in a graduation cap and gown in a wheelchair holding a diploma.

Thank You for Reading this Guide!

We hope this Navigation Guide is informative and provides you with the needed resources to answer many of your questions as you travel on your journey as a parent of a child with special health care needs. We encourage you to keep this guide and review it again in the future as your journey takes new paths or goes in new directions. Having a child with special needs can be challenging and there may be bumps along the way, but services and supports exist in Wisconsin and many organizations and individuals are available to assist you! And remember that you can always contact your CYSHCN Regional Center or Well Badger Resource Center about any of the material included in this guide.