Seattle Public Schools

Special Education

Exiting and Transition

Special Education Transition and Exiting of Services

What is transition?

Transition refers to two points in an individual’s use of publicly funded supports for disability:

  1. the shift from birth-to-three services to preschool services
  2. the shift from high school and/or 18-21-year-old services to post secondary and/or adult services. In this section, we focus on the second transition, secondary to postsecondary.

What are transition services?

Transition services encompass both planning and instruction specifically intended to prepare students for education, work and life after high school.

Who participates?

All students receiving special education services between age 16 and graduation planning for transition and receive transition services. Following graduation, if the IEP team selects it, age 18-21 transition services will be provided.

When do transition planning and services start and end?

Transition planning and services begin by the age of 16, at the latest, and continues until a student is no longer eligible for special education or has transitioned to adult services the end of the school year in which they turn 21.

Where will planning and services occur?

Transition planning and services are integrated into the high-school setting through the IEP. Following graduation, transition services occur at a variety of sites throughout the district and city.

Why is it important?

Let’s look at our mission statement to help answer this question.

Seattle Public Schools’ (SPS) charge is to effect positive change in the lives of young people by preparing them with skills, experiences, and knowledge necessary to afford them wide-ranging opportunities in the future. The goal of the Special Education Department is to actualize this charge for all qualified students, regardless of disability.

And our vision: We are guided by the belief that every student in Seattle Public Schools deserves membership, challenge, support and achievement – not only in school, but also in life.

Adult Services

SPS does not provide services for individuals with disabilities beyond the school year during which they turn 21. A student’s special education case manager will refer students to appropriate agencies beyond SPS including the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) as part of transition planning and services. Parental Consent is required for representatives of other agencies to attend an IEP meeting.

Link to Learn

WA DSHS Home Developmental Disabilities AssociationWashington State Department of Social and Health Services


It is the goal of SPS for every student to graduate well-prepared for next steps, regardless of disability. Students receiving special education services will either graduate with a diploma, or will leave with a Certificate of Attendance. Please see the graduation requirements page for more details.

Students receiving IEP services and their families may determine alternative courses to meet specific needs that align with graduation requirements. SPS does not discriminate in access to any course offered. Visit your student’s school site for course catalog and course request information.

Transition Planning

Transition, under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), refers to the shift from secondary to postsecondary activities and/or services. Transition does not occur in a single moment; rather it is an extended period of planning and instruction culminating with a shift to adult life. The goal is to prepare each individual student in accordance with their strengths, interests and challenges to be ready for that step forward.

Increasingly, the term “person-centered planning” is used to identify this work.

If individuals representing another public services agency are invited to attend an IEP meeting the parents must provide consent.


SPS’ BRIDGES program is designed for young adults with disabilities ages 18-21 who continue to need special education services outside of a 9th-12th grade setting/curriculum in order to meet their own unique post-secondary transition goals. Certificated special education teachers, with training in functional special education services, are delivery case managers. Read more about BRIDGES.