What is the next step for my son?


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.

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  1. Tara Carmon says

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.
    I’m trying so hard to find a support team for my daughter as well as myself. .. any information…

  2. My son had an IEP throughout school. He was always in regular class with straight A’s. He’s always had speech issues , as well as social issues. He completed college with honors. He’s now 21. Now the concern is getting a job that will support him. There was no transition plans put in place for him prior to his graduation. Support through the college disability office was minimal. How do I help him now?

    • LDA of America says

      I have a couple of suggestions. Most colleges have a Career Center that assists graduates with obtaining additional employment skills and a job. Go to his alma mater and ask how they can help. You might also contact Rehabilitation Services in your area to ask for their help. Their goal is for all individuals with disabilities to find jobs. You can read more about rehabilitation services here: https://ldaamerica.org/rehabilitation-services-administration-rsa/.

  3. Christopher Korman says

    I think the best way to counter act or governments inability to address all childrens needs vocaitonall/emotionally is to focus on the whole child.I attend a school that did better then any school I ever attended.The Marianne Frostig School. Marianne Frostig was a pioneer who first linked perceptual disturbances with LD.They celebrated the sameness qualities in all of us instead of dwelling or harping on our weaknesses.If young people truly want to dictate their own fate outside of a negflectful and corrupt educational system then we need to address career aspirations in HS not before College.The school districts in London starts assessing vocational aspirations at 14 and 15. I also learned at a early age not to measure success by what society deems as success I measure success based on what is realistic for me to pursue and achieve.

    • Tracey Ogden says

      I have just found this site, wish I had found it 2 yrs ago, my son now 20yrs old also was on IEP, we emigrated to Texas when he was 11yrs old always had help throughout his school life, wish I had been more assertive with the school . He graduated with his credits, but the transition into work has not been successful, he worked as a welders helper (for husband) for a company, he could not handle the heat and he was bored,, . I am about to send him for pro driving lessons, as he can’t seem to give full focus ,coordination. I had no advice from school for transition, they just said he would after TSI exam to get into college, wow, really. His diagnosis was low to middle IQ, wow again, I would categorise him as ADD.

  4. Lynette Birch says

    I Lynette Birch and l have a learning disabilities.when I was in third grade,I was put in special education because I learned slow.I am 66 years old and my work is janitorial I’ve been in it 25 years.I would like to do something fun like cake decorations

  5. I am a 51-year-old woman with severe learning disabilities and ADHD. I was diagnosed at age 7 and went to special school and continued on into college. it took me six years to graduate from college and once I graduated I could not find sustainable work. The jobs that I was able to get were always UNchallenging. they also didn’t pay well or enough to support me. The jobs that could support me I couldn’t get. The longest job I ever had was about a year.

    looking back and reflecting, it’s super important that decisions you make for your child today reflect where you want and expect your child to go in the future when he or she becomes an adult.

    Athough I did go on to college. earn to be a degree from UCLA attending college was not right for me. I I think college and higher education is very overrated. For myself anyways I need to learn something that I can immediately apply. Unless one become s a teacher, physical therapist, nurse, doctor or attorney, going to college probably isn’t the best path for people with learning disabilities I suppose it depends on how severe it is and what kinds of support system one has have I

    I learned that college for me was not a good choice. Has I had guidance and support and majored in something like kinesiolgy where I could immediately apply the skills and get a decent job after graduating my life would be completely different today.

    Reflecting on my past,it’s important to look at longer-term goals and what you hope and expect to accomplish when making decisions about what to do right now for your child. it’s so important the choices we make today because what we do today will shape and define what we achieve or don’t achieve in our future. I would take every opportunity while your children are in school and after active after school activities to explore their interests and strengths. to figure out where you ultimately expect or hope to see them go. School isn’t the only way to learn. when there’s a block in one area of learning try to find another way. for instance if he doesn’t understand what he reads might he understand what he hears instead? if it was read aloud to him or maybe he can read it out loud himself. we have to get kind of creative with the learning process and and know that maybe his style of learning is very different then others the challenging part though is finding out how he learns best then you can ask for that accommodation.

    when our kids are young we put so much emphasis on their schooling and education. but I think that we should be doing more in terms of getting them more involved in a variety of activities to discover what they like or don’t, excel at or don’t KEEP doing things out of the box. getting them involved in a variety activities is also going to be confidence boosting something I never had so I had a hard time going on job interviews and getting past that. so we have to think about the other skills that are going to be necessary once they become an adult and are not in school. we must not be shortsighted and thinking only of the immediate time. try to make every decision every choice every activity you get them involved in today as preparation for what you’re going to need to do once they become an adult.That would be my recommendation. I hope that helps!

    • Thank you so much for your advice,I’m very worried for my daughter,She is 13 with learning disabilities,Some times I think what will happen to her if I’m gone.She likes baking and photography,I think I will support her at what she is confident.

  6. My son is 15 just finished his freshman year of high school. He has a 504 plan since 6th grade after being diagnosed with ADD. I think he also has dysgraphia or some other type of LD. He “passed” all of his classes yet failed almost all of his finals including gym. I really don’t know where to turn. Is there some outside source of testing to find out? I am not putting him on medication I want to fix the problem. I am located in central NJ.

  7. My son is 17 almost 18 I had asked for a IEP from the school since he was 16 and they said he was just lazy! It took me sending him to a Dual diagnosis center to get the diagnosis that he has a IQ of 70, he lost cognitive motor at the age of 2 weeks. He has TBI from his biological mother. He wants to get his GED but can not comprehend when he reads something! Is there any help out there

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