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Arlyn Roffman, Professor Emeritus Lesley University


My son had an IEP in school, passed the state testing and completed all of his high school credits. We requested for him to stay another year in school for social and pragmatic issues. However, the school graduated him after repeated requests by my son, his therapist and myself to hold him back. What is the next step?


I’m afraid this is a scenario that occurs all too often. Many higher-functioning students in special education are able to pass their state’s test and earn the credits required for graduation, yet are not ready to transition into either work or further schooling.

Under IDEA 2004, districts are required to include appropriate transition planning based upon ongoing assessment in IEPs starting at age 16 (age varies by state). The Quabbin case in Massachusetts established that fulfillment of those graduation requirements is insufficient for graduating students whose IEP goals and objectives have not been met. Further, in the landmark Dracut case, the Hearing Officer stated, “…mere academic success is not enough, when other deficits will likely preclude a student from functioning effectively in a post-secondary environment, whether in the community, in college, or when interacting with social and workplace peers.” In that case, the court required the school to provide compensatory services, even after graduation.

I recommend contacting a lawyer about your situation. With appropriate transition services, your son will have greater potential for a satisfying and productive adult life.

Dr. Arlyn Roffman | Professor Emeritus | Lesley University

Dr. Roffman taught at Lesley beginning in 1976, working most her time here with graduate students in special education. The exception was a 15-year period beginning in 1981, when she founded the Threshold Program and served as director of this comprehensive transition program for young adults with significant learning problems, the first of its kind in the nation based on a college campus. Returning to a faculty role in 1996 allowed her to write two more books and numerous other publications related to transition and to present and consult extensively on this topic throughout the US and abroad. In 2011 the Learning Disabilities Association of America presented Dr. Roffman with the LDA Award, its highest honor. She has served on a number of national boards related to individuals with disabilities and very much enjoys teaching and mentoring new teachers. Dr. Roffman is also a licensed psychologist and maintains a small practice serving adults with disabilities.