transition resources

Transition Planning can be overwhelming for families. Our plan is for this page to slowly grow into a collection of resources for each step of the transition process. By putting all the important pieces in one place, we hope to ease some of that stress.

If you have suggestions for resources that you'd like to see included, please send them our way. If you find a broken link, please let us know that as well.

Thank you.

Transition-Planning Timeline - Prior to age 14

Please note: The information and outside links are provided here as resources. We will do our best to ensure that links are accurate, but hold no responsibility for content outside our website.

Prior to age 14

You don’t have to wait until your child enters high school or turns 14 to begin transition planning. These are some things that schools and families can start at any age to begin preparing for the transition to adulthood for individuals with severe autism:

explore special recreation

Special recreation activities can provide students with autism opportunities for fun, exercise, and skill development.  Younger students can begin to explore interests now that can become lifelong adult leisure and recreation activities.  Many communities offer recreation and leisure opportunities for children and adults with disabilities, both within and outside of their community boundaries.

Special Recreation Programs:

Camps and Respite Weekends:

For More Resources:

Develop self-care routines and assign chores

Helping your child to learn self-care and daily living skills now (e.g. brushing teeth, showering, doing laundry) will prepare him/her be more independent as an adult.  Assigning simple chores at home, like taking out the trash or loading the dishwasher, will get your child ready for future work opportunities.  Strategies such as creating a consistent routine and using visual supports (e.g. picture schedule) can help your child be successful in learning new skills.  Your child’s teacher can provide support in this area and help you identify skills that your child is ready to practice at home.

complete puns

Now or in the future you child may need services from the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) such as respite care, residential placement, or day programming.  There is a process to get a on the Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services (PUNS) list to receive funding for these services. Even if you do not think your child will need these services right away, it is important to begin this process now. Contact your Pre-Admission Screening (PAS) agency to complete a PUNS questionnaire to determine your need for current or future services (e.g. respite, in-home supports, group home).  Once you complete the PUNS process, check in with your PAS agent to update your information at least once a year or if your child’s needs change significantly.

To locate your local PAS agency: 

  • Online: Use the DHS Office Locator (select Developmental Disability Services from the dropdown menu): 
  • By phone: Call the automated number for local DD service information: 1-888-DDPLANS

To learn more about PUNS

explore ssi

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available to individuals with disabilities with little or no income.  For children with disabilities under age 18, family income is considered.  In order to receive SSI, you will need to file an application and provide documentation of eligibility.

get a social security card

Your child may need a Social Security number to get a paid job, get Social Security benefits, and receive other government benefits or services.  Banks or credit companies may also require a Social Security number.  A Social Security card can be presented to show your child’s Social Security number.

To learn more about Social Security numbers and cards:

Visit the Social Security website

consider estate planning + special needs trust

There are steps that parents and family members can take now to prepare for the future when they are no longer there to care for an individual with a disability.  Careful planning can help to ensure that your child is well cared for and has financial security.  There are special considerations in future planning and estate planning for individuals with disabilities.

Now or as an adult, your child may receive needs-based government benefits such as SSI, Medicaid, or Medicaid waiver services (e.g. CILA, adult day program).  In order to qualify for these benefits, the individual must have assets or income below a certain level, and benefits may be jeopardized if the individual receives an inheritance, personal injury settlement, or large financial gift.  A special needs trust can be set up to supplement government benefits without disqualifying the individual from receiving benefits.  

For more information, check out the resources below:

Transition-Planning Timeline: 14-17

Please note: The information and outside links are provided here as resources. We will do our best to ensure that links are accurate, but hold no responsibility for content outside our website.

Report a broken link.

Age 14-17

By the time a student turns 14 ½, a transition plan is developed as part of the IEP. This is an exciting time as students begin to explore their interests and develop a vision for adult life. Here are some items that students, families, and schools should address during the teen years:

develop transition plan with iep team

The transition plan is the plan for your child’s future after after he or she graduates or ages out of school. This plan includes assessments, long term goals, course of study, the steps to work towards the long-term goals, and a plan for getting home-based supports if appropriate.

  • Transition Assessments: gather information from you, your child, and the educational staff who work with your child. This information is used to guide the rest of the transition plan. Assessments can be formal or informal and may include a parent/ family interview or questionnaire, input from your child, and evaluations by your child’s educational team.
  • Post-Secondary Goals are written for when your child graduates or ages out of school. A goal must be developed for post-school employment, education or training, and independent living. These goals will be updated at least every year, so it’s okay if they change over time. 
  • The course of study is the multi-year list of classes that the team plans for your child to take in school to help him or her meet post-secondary goals. 
  • The transition services/ coordinated set of activities includes the steps that will be taken to work toward your child’s post-secondary goals. This covers what will be done this school year and who is responsible for carrying out that step. The activities can include instruction, related services, community experiences, development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, acquisition of independent living skills, functional vocational evaluation, and/or linkages to after graduation supports and services.
  • The home-based support services section of the transition plan addresses the plan for determining eligibility for DHS-funded adult services and a plan for how to best use the services after completing school. 

To read more about transition planning, check out the article “Why a Transition Plan?” from Autism Speaks

student participates in iep planning and meeting

This is a great time to get your child involved in the IEP and transition planning process if you haven’t already. Students can participate in their IEP at any age, but it’s even more important when transition planning begins. Students with transition plans (8th graders or students 14+) are required by Illinois law to be invited to their meetings, though they are not required to attend. Sometimes students attend the entire meeting, come for a small portion, or don’t attend at all. There are many ways for your child to participate in the process including choosing photos of what they've worked on that they or their teacher would present at the meeting, introducing IEP team members, presenting their new goals, providing their input on their post-secondary goals, and even leading the meeting.

promote independence in choice-making, communication and daily living skills

Transition planning should include development of the skills your child will need as an adult. You can support your child by increasing responsibilities at home, promoting independence in self care, encouraging communication, and helping your child build self-advocacy skills.

For more information about teaching self-advocacy skills, including making choices, look at the “Self-Advocacy” section of the Autism Speaks Transition Tool Kit

consider employment interests, strengths, and needs

In addition to developing a long term employment goal as part of the transition plan, your child should be exploring vocational strengths and interests during the high school years. For younger high school students this may include participating in jobs around the classroom or school and completing interest inventories to assess their career preferences. As students progress through high school, they may continue to develop their vocational skills and refine their interests by visiting potential job sites, participating in job try-outs, or participating in volunteer work, job training, or paid employment in the community. This is also a good time to think about the amount of support your child will need at a future job.

Types of employment for adults with disabilities:

  • Competitive employment - employment in the community for a competitive wage with the same benefits as other workers without disabilities
  • Supported employment - employment in the community with supports like job coaching to obtain and/or maintain employment 
  • Customized employment - a process of creating a job that matches the job seeker’s individual interests, strengths, and needs and the needs of an employer
  • Self-employment - an individual with a disability owning their own business
  • Sheltered work - long term employment with other people with disabilities in a sheltered setting where supervision and training are provided, may be paid at less than minimum wage

Note: There may be some overlap in these types of employment and differences in how organizations define each type.

For more details on the different types of employment, take a look at “Employment Models – What Option Is Best for You?” from Autism Speaks

explore adult living, vocational, and day programs

Now is the time to familiarize yourself with the adult service options that may be available for your child. While most of these services can’t be accessed until an individual is at least 18, becoming aware of the individual’s needs and preferences is an important step in planning. Some programs and services are paid for by state funding, while other options must be paid for by the individual.

Adult residential options

Community Integrated Living Arrangement (CILA): a living arrangement in a group home, family home or apartment with 8 or less unrelated adults with disabilities, funded by a Medicaid Waiver

Intermediate Care Facility for the Developmentally Disabled (ICF-DD): a residential facility funded by Medicaid serving adults with intellectual disability who require ongoing treatment and training, this category includes large, private, state-funded facilities.

Living in own home or family home: state-funded supports may be available to individuals who continue to live with their family or rent or buy their own home

Day and Vocational Options

DHS/DD Day Programs: State-funded services for people with developmental disabilities.

Description of the day services offered through DHS:

  • Developmental training - day programs that focus on building skills and independence, may include volunteering or job training, but not paid work.
  • Supported Employment (see employment section and DHS website for more information)
  • Regular Work / Sheltered Employment (see employment section and DHS website for more information)
  • Private Pay Programs full or partial day programs that include life skills, vocational training, and/or leisure opportunities for individuals with disabilities that are paid for by the participant rather than by state funding, Some DHS funded programs may also accept private pay participants.
  • Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services: (Note: These services are typically best for individuals who have the potential to eventually work competitively without ongoing supports.)
  • College programs for people with intellectual disabilities: Post-secondary education programs designed for students with intellectual disabilities, often located on college campuses.
    • For more information and to search for programs by state, visit Think College.

obtain state id card

Individuals with certain disabilities, such as autism, can qualify for a free Illinois Person with a Disability Identification Card that is valid for 10 years. This can be used both as an identification card and proof of a disability. To obtain this card, the individual must provide both proof of identity and proof of disability. The applicant must provide documents that show written signature, date of birth, and social security number. He or she must also have a physician complete an application form to document the disability.

stay in touch with pas/isc, update puns annually

Part of your child’s future plan may include services from the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) such as respite care, residential placement, or day programming. If you haven’t already, contact your local Pre-Admission Screening (PAS) agency to determine your need for current or future services. If you have already completed the PUNS process for your child, make sure that you are in touch with your PAS agent at least every year or more often as your child’s needs change.

To locate your local PAS agency:

  • Online: Use the DHS Office Locator (select Developmental Disability Services from the dropdown menu)
  • By phone: Call the automated number for local DD service information: 1-888-DDPLANS
  • To learn more about PUNS check out the DHS PUNS Program Brochure

Transition-Planning Timeline: 17-21

Please note: The information and outside links are provided here as resources. We will do our best to ensure that links are accurate, but hold no responsibility for content outside our website.

Report a broken link.

Age 17-21

As your child completes his or her last year of school, it is time to finalize the post-school plan. Listed below are important tasks to be done before completing school:

age 18

There are specific steps in the transition process that should be addressed at age 18:

Finalize the Post-School Plan

Work with your PAS/ISC agency to determine available funding and appropriate post-school programs. Ideally, plans should be made to allow time for the student to transition to new programs or services with collaboration between school staff and staff from the new program. Some items to consider include:

(These links will take you to earlier sections of the Transition Timeline, with more details on each:)

  • Residential placement / in-home supports
  • Employment
  • Day Programming
  • Recreation
  • Transportation: Your child may need transportation to and from a day program or job site each day and to other activities in the community. Some day programs provide their own transportation, others pay for participants to take paratransit, and others require the participant to arrange his/her own transportation. 

    Plan For Health Coverage

    Now is the time to investigate adult health insurance coverage. You should consider if and how long your child is eligible to remain on a parent’s health plan and the cost of this coverage. An adult with a disability with limited income may qualify for Medicaid even if he or she did not receive Medicaid as a child. An adult with a disability may qualify for Medicare if a retired parent or parent with a disability receives Medicare, or a deceased parent received Medicare. 

    Plan for post-school augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and/or assistive technology (AT) needs

    Devices funded by school districts are district property, and will likely need to be returned when a student finishes school. Funding for AAC and/or AT may be available through Medicaid or private health insurance. A report from a Speech Language Pathologist and prescription from a physician are typically required to obtain funding for an AAC device.

    • For more information, look at the AAC Institute’s funding page: 
    • Additional funding information may be available from the device manufacturer.

    Age of Majority / Transfer of Educational Rights

    The age of majority is the legal age at which someone gains adult rights and responsibilities and is no longer a minor. Educational rights transfer to the student at age 18 in Illinois. This means the student makes all of the decisions related to his or her education, such as being the primary person involved in developing the IEP, consenting to evaluations or change of placement, and even deciding if the parent may attend the IEP meeting. At least one year prior to reaching the age of majority, a statement of transfer of rights is given to the child and parent as part of the IEP. At the age of majority, other legal rights are transferred to the individual as well, including the right to make decisions about medical care, finances, and living arrangement. 

    Consider Legal Guardianship

    Parents’ guardianship over their child ends when the child turns 18. Some adults with disabilities may not be capable of making their own personal and/or financial decisions. A legal guardian can be appointed to make decisions for the person and handle his or her affairs. 

    To find out more, see these resources from the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission (IGAC):

    Apply for Medicaid

    Medicaid is a health care insurance program for people with limited income. Enrollment in Medicaid is necessary for funding and entrance to many adult residential and day programs (Home and Community Based Services Waiver programs). 

    Explore SSI

    At age 18, the individual’s financial resources are evaluated, not the family’s, regardless of guardianship status. Individuals who did not qualify for SSI as children, may qualify as adults if they have limited income. In order to receive SSI, you will need to file an application and provide documentation of eligibility.

    • To contact the Social Security Administration to make an appointment, call:  1-800-772-1213
    • For more information, go to the Supplemental Security Income Home Page:

    Register for Selective Service

    Males must register for selective service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Although it is highly unlikely that an individual with a significant disability would be asked to serve in the military, failing to register could affect eligibility for certain government programs or benefits

    Register to Vote

    Illinois residents may register to vote if they are 17 years old on or before the date of the Primary Election and turn 18 on or before the date of the General Election. The state of Illinois has no law prohibiting people from voting based on guardianship status or disability.