Transition Planning Information

In Massachusetts Public Schools, the transition planning process begins when a student turns 14. As the student gets closer to graduation, their IEP Team will consider how to prepare them for a successful adult life. Considerations include:

  • Job Training
  • Post-Secondary Education
  • Employment
  • Independent Living Skill
  • Travel training and Getting Around

Just as every student's abilities and interests are unique, every student's transition plan will be different. This site includes resources that will help with the transition planning process and answer many of the questions that families and students commonly ask

Adult Agencies Involved in Services: Based on your referral, if your child qualifies, he or she is assigned to one of these Adult Agencies.

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What is Transition?

School Related Transition Activities:  For Massachusetts students receiving special education services, “transition” is a time that begins when they turn 14 (or earlier, if the IEP team agrees). From age 14 until they graduate or turn 22, students on IEPs receive “transition services” from their public school districts. Transition services are defined by federal law (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA) as a “coordinated set of activities…designed to be within a results oriented process…to facilitate the student’s movement from school to post-school activities.” Transition services are based on the individual student’s needs, taking into account his/her strengths, preferences, and interests. These are school services which will help ensure that young adults will live, work, and/or go to postsecondary school as independently as possible when they leave public school.  

Chapter 688: Related Transition Activities: (What is Chapter 688?)

Massachusetts Chapter 688 of the Acts of 1983 (also known as the “Turning 22 Law”) stipulates that a student receiving special education, who because of the severity of his or her impairment, may require continued disability-related services upon exiting school (by graduating or turning twenty-two years of age, whichever occurs first), shall be offered specific, coordinated transition planning. As such, the statute establishes the Bureau of Transitional Planning (BTP). The primary function of the BTP is to insure that for all students referred under Chapter 688, formal transition planning occurs in accordance with the process and outcomes described in the statute.

How does the Chapter 688 process work?

A student’s IEP team should make a referral for Chapter 688 transition planning at least two years prior to the student’s graduation or turning 22. 

Transition Planning Form (TPF) 

When a student with special education services turns 14, their IEP Team will begin the transition planning process.  Specific post-secondary goals will be developed in order to prepare the student for future training, education, employment, and daily living experiences.

The Transition Planning Form is a document that will be added to the student's IEP in order to record the transition planning process.  There are three parts to the Transition Planning Form:  

Post-Secondary Vision

o    What are the student's preferences and interests?

o    What are the student's desired outcomes for post-secondary education, training, employment, and adult living?

Disability Related Needs

o    What are the skill areas the student needs IEP goals or related services for?

o    What skills will the student need to develop in order to achieve their post-secondary vision?

Action Plan

o    Instruction: What courses of study will the student need?

o    Employment: What employment opportunities or work-related skills will the student need?

o    Community/Adult Living: What types of community or adult living experiences will the student need?

The Transition Planning Form Action Plan is designed to help the student prepare for a successful transition to adult life with the highest degree of independence possible.

Teaching staff, family members, community members, and local agencies work together to support the student's action plan.

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What is a 688 Referral?

Start Early! It takes up to two years to complete a 688 referral/adult transition. Make your referral: Referral Form

In Massachusetts, students with disabilities access adult service agencies through the Chapter 688 referral process. Chapter 688 provides a two year coordinated planning process for students whose entitlements to special education services will end when they graduate from school or turn 22 years of age.

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Who is Eligible for a 688 Referral? 

Automatic: student with SSI or SSDI benefits based on an existing disability and those involved with MA Commission for the blind.

Potentially Eligible could include students who:

Are in Special Education, requiring ongoing instruction due to severity of disability and those unable to work 20 hours a week in competitive employment

CH 688 Human Services Agency Contacts Information:

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What is the parent/student role?

A possible 688 referral should be discussed at the IEP Team meeting at least two years before the student is expected to graduate or turn 22, as part of transition planning. Ask the school to submit a 688 referral for your child. It must be signed by the parent, legal guardian, or by the young adult who is 18 or older. Request a copy of the form that is submitted.

In addition, the parent/student may want to consider applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for any individual who may meet the 688 eligibility criteria. (See Additional Resources)

For more information about 688 and transition requirements of IDEA, visit the Massachusetts Department of Education Special Education Transition Planning webpage at: or call The Parent Training Information Center at the Federation for Children with Special Needs at 1-800-331-0688.

For Chapter 688 specific questions contact the Director of the Bureau of Transitional Planning (BTP) within The Executive Office of Health and Human Services, (EOHHS) at 617-573-1600.

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To Make a Referral

To make the referral, the school district must ask the parent, young adult, or guardian to sign the consent in order to send school records to the appropriate local human services agency (DDS, DMH, MRC, DCF, etc.), generally selected based upon the most reasonable match between the student’s disability support needs and the agency’s area of expertise.

The human services agency must then develop an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) with the family, young adult and school system personnel.

If the student’s IEP team has difficulty selecting one human service agency, the 688 referral form, as well as copies of the current IEP and the most recent assessments, should be submitted to the Bureau of Transitional Planning, which will then designate an agency to develop the ITP.

The ITP is completed no later than six months prior to the date the student exits school, and contains a description of the student’s disability related needs which will require support after exiting school, as well as the agency or entity responsible for the provision of such services. Please note: adult eligibility processes for a student requesting services from a state agency must still be completed, usually concurrently with ITP development.

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What are the benefits of 688?

Although young adults are free to apply directly to the human services agencies outside of the 688 process, going through the process ensures that the agencies have enough time to set up the most seamless transition possible, and that time-sensitive transition needs such as housing or college applications can be identified and implemented in a timely manner.

The 688 process ensures that students are working with the appropriate human service agency before exiting special education, and that for those individuals who do not meet state agency adult eligibility requirements, there is time to plan for alternative supports to meet their needs.

It is important to note: Chapter 688 is NOT a continuation of special education, and it does NOT entitle young adults to state agency services after age 22. Also, it is NOT intended for the many young adults who have received special education services and are now able to work 20 or more hours per week in competitive employment, and lead independent lives as adults.

DCF: Department of Children and Families:

Student is in the custody of or has an “open case” with the

Department of Children & Families.

Exception is if the student is blind, they would then be referred to

the Mass Commission for the Blind.

DDS: Department of Developmental Services

Intellectually disabled

Student may have Intellectual Disability coupled with other disabilities

Students residing in a pediatric nursing facility may be referred to


MCB: Mass Commission for the Blind:

Registered with the Mass Commission for the Blind

May have blindness coupled with other disabilities such as emotional disturbance, deafness, or intellectual

DMH: Department of Mental Health:

·Serious and long term mental illness that has resulted in functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. *

Serious and long term mental illness is a disorder of thought, mood, perception, orientation, or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, and that results in an inability to meet the ordinary demands of life.

MRC: Mass Rehab Commission

Specific learning disabilities; Health related disabilities;

Communication disabilities (Voc Rehab Services)

Traumatic Brain Injury (SHIP/Statewide Head Injury Program )

Physical disability with mobility impairment (Independent Living Program)

 NOTE: Students receiving residential services at the time of 688 referral should not be referred to MRC for transition planning unless specifically directed by the BTP

MCDHH: Mass Commission Deaf and Hard of Hearing:

Deaf/use of ASL; hard of hearing;

Unable to sustain independent competitive employment

Unable to complete post –secondary education/training without  substantial assistance

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Guardianship is a legal process that grants the guardian authority to care for, and to make decisions on behalf of, an Incapacitated Person. 

An Incapacitated Person is a person with a clinically diagnosed condition that leaves them unable to make or communicate decisions affecting their physical health, safety, or self-care.  

The Probate and Family Court may appoint someone, called a guardian, to make some or all decisions for the Incapacitated Person. The person asking to be named guardian is called the Petitioner; the person believed to be incapacitated is called the Respondent.

Citation START HERE:

Other Things to Consider: 


A conservator is appointed to manage only the financial affairs for an individual with a disability, including banking and bills.


Allows a trustee to control specific assets on the behalf of an individual

No court intervention needed

Legal consultation is recommended when creating a trust

Special Bank Accounts

Joint bank accounts can be created to provide assistance with financial decision-making

Withdrawal limits, automatic payments, and direct deposits can be easily arranged

Representative Payee 

A person identified as a "representative payee"recieves and manages specific deposits on the behalf of an individual

The individual continues to make all other financial and personal decisions

Health Care Proxy 

A health care proxy is a legal document that allows an individual to give a specific person the power to make health care decisions for them

A health care proxy goes into effect when a doctor determines that the individual no longer has the capicity to make their own health care decisions

Power of Attorney 

A Power of Attorney document allows an individual to share financial decisions with a specific person whom they delegate

No court intervention needed

Information provided on this page is for reference only. 

Parents and guardians should seek professional legal counsel when considering guardianship and alternative options.

For More Information... 

The following websites will provide more detailed information about guardianship and alternatives to guardianship:

·         Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Department

·         Massachusetts Guardianship Association

·         Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries

Age of Majority & Guardianship

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Age of Majority

When an individual turns 18 years of age, he or she is legally identified as an adult. This is known as the Age of Majority. With this change comes the responsibility for making legal, financial, medical, and other important life decisions.

Some individuals with disabilities may not be prepared to make these decisions on their own at age 18. When this is the case, parents and guardians should decide ahead of time what kind of legal supports or protections will be necessary to protect the safety and rights of the individual.  If legal protections are not in place the Transfer of Rights will occur when the individual turns 18 years old.

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 Who May Become a Guardian of an Incapacitated Person?

In Massachusetts, a guardian must be appointed by the Probate and Family Court.

Anyone interested in the Respondent's welfare may file a Petition for Guardianship.

You do not become guardian automatically just because you are the parent of an incapacitated adult child.

The Court shall not appoint as guardian any person who is currently being investigated or who has charges pending for committing an assault and battery that resulted in serious bodily injury to the Respondent, or, for neglect of the Respondent.

The person asking to become the guardian is called the Petitioner.


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Who is Considered an Incapacitated Person?

The term "Incapacitated Person" is used to refer to someone who does not have the legal capacity to make their own decisions.  An incapacitated person is defined as someone who "for reasons other than advanced age or minority, has a clinically diagnosed condition that results in an inability to receive and evaluate information or to make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to meet essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care, even with appropriate technological assistance".

An intellectually disabled individual is defined as someone who has significantly sub average intellectual functioning (usually defined as an IQ of less than 70), and who has limitations in two or more areas of adaptive skills such as communication, self-care, social skills, health, and safety. Note: The term "Mental Retardation" has been removed from all Massachusetts statutes and replaced with "intellectual disability".  A guardian may be appointed for a person with an intellectual disability.

A guardian may be appointed for a person with mental illness.  Mental illness is defined as a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Mental illness often results in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life. People suffering with a mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in a treatment plan.

A guardianship may be necessary when, for example, an elderly parent has a degenerative health condition and cannot therefore consent to treatment, or placement in a nursing facility, or, a person has suffered a traumatic brain injury, or, a disabled child is turning eighteen years old.

The person alleged to be incapacitated is called the Respondent.


Transportation and Travel Training

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Getting Around as a Young Adult: What’s right for you and your child?


Driver's Education for Youth with Disabilities 

Organizations such as The Central MA Safety Council, Inc and Adaptive Driving Program, Inc.provide driver training programs specifically for youth with disabilities. Youth can also consult with an Adaptive Driving Specialist who can provide advice and support with adaptive driving equipment.

Driving Assessments are available for individuals who may be unsure whether they can safely drive due to a disability. Driving Assessments assess factors such as vision, hearing, reaction time, motor skills, and cognitive abilities.  For more information about driving evaluation programs and assessments, see the following RMV publication:

Locally you can contact a drivers training school and ask about modifications for young people with disablities.

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Travel Training 

For students for whom a driver's license may not be the right choice right now, consider Travel Training.  Travel training affords students the opportunity to learn and master different kinds of local Public Transportation available including buses, trains, and taxis.   Take advantage of the current local resources and accessibility options!

Types of travel instruction

Travel instruction includes at least three different services:

§  Transit orientation explains transportation systems by sharing information about trip planning, schedules, maps, fare systems, mobility devices, and benefits and services. It may be conducted in a group or one-on-one.

§  Familiarization teaches people who are experienced with traveling about a new route or mode of transportation. It may be conducted in a group or one-on-one.

§  Travel training is an intensive, one-on-one process to help someone gain the knowledge and skills he or she needs to make trips independently. Travel training is individualized to meet each student’s unique needs.

§  Citation for infor:

Benefits of travel instruction

Everybody wins from travel instruction:

§  Individuals and their families benefit from travel instruction because it promotes independence and community living. It gives people more choice about how to get where they need to go.

§  By offering travel instruction, human service agencies can help their consumers increase their mobility and their independence.

§  Transit authorities benefit from travel instruction because it can help them increase ridership and save money. Riders may be able to shift some of their trips off paratransit services on to fixed route services, reducing costs for transit agencies.

Resources to learn more

§  Easter Seals Project ACTION offers a range of resources on travel instruction, including resources specifically for parents and educators.

§  The Association of Travel Instruction is a membership organization dedicated to supporting travel instructors across the country.

§  The Global Travel Training Community is an online forum where travel instructors from around the world share promising practices and brainstorm challenges with each other.

§  FAQs for individuals and families considering whether travel instruction would be helpful for themselves or their loved ones and for human service agencies and transit authorities considering offering travel instruction services. Travel Instruction FAQ    

Finding a travel instruction program to enroll in

§  Consult our map or list of travel instruction programs around Massachusetts,. If you know of a program that is not listed, please contact us so we can add it.
If you do not see a travel instruction program listed for your area:
Start by calling your local transit authority. Find out whether a transit authority covers your area and how to contact them here.
If you participate in a social service program or live in a residential facility, ask program staff if they offer any travel instruction or can refer you to a local service.
Massachusetts residents who are blind or low vision should contact the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind to learn about Orientation and Mobility services.

Statewide network of travel instruction programs

§  Travel instructors, travel instruction program leaders, and anyone interested in starting a program in Massachusetts are invited to join an informal network of travel instruction programs here in the Commonwealth.

·         The Massachusetts Travel Instruction Network offers the opportunity to connect with your peers across the state to share resources and promising practices and brainstorm solutions to challenges.

·         Contact us at if you would like to join the mailing list or receive updates on statewide conference calls or meetings.

·         The network has developed two resources:

·         Recommended resources for new travel instruction programs  

·         Recommended performance measures for travel instruction programs   - largely adopted by MassDOT and published as  Suggested Performance Measures for Travel Instruction Program Grantees .,