Table of contents > Chapter Six: Planning and Transition Planning


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In this chapter:

  1. Why is Planning Important? 
  2. Person-Centred Planning
    a. MAPS
    b. PATH 
  3. Transition Planning 
  4. Planning for Kindergarten
    a. Who to Involve
    b. Questions to Ask
    c. Resources
    d. Other Helpful Links in This Handbook
  5. Other Transitions
    a. Grade Four
  6. Transition out of Elementary School
    a. Middle school Transition Tips from Parents
    b. Questions to ask in the Early Meetings 
  7. The Transition to High School
  8. High School to Adult Life 
    a. Inclusive Post-Secondary 
    b. Transition Planning and Assessments 
    c. Resources: Planning the Transition out of High School  
    d. Video Resources
    e. On My Way: Transition Planning Project 
    f. Services to Adults with Developmental Disabilities (STADD) 
    g. Other Resources in this Handbook 


1. Why is Planning Important?

Planning is an important part of the educational process. It allows parents who support students with disabilities and additional support needs to connect their hopes and dreams to daily actions. It makes possible an inclusive community life for your children, one step at a time. Planning can also involve forming a team to work together toward big-picture goals. 

  • Planning is an ongoing and circular process. As you identify new needs, you will need to revise the plan to address them. As goals in the plan are achieved, you will need to define new goals. The way you plan will also probably change over the years as your child gets older and contributes in different ways. 
  • Planning should be person-centred. It begins with your child and responds to all aspects of their life. 
  • Planning should be team-based. This team will include you and your child at the centre and may include friends, neighbours, extended family, and other caring community members.  

This handbook provides an overview of the components of planning essential to education. On this chapter you will find information about options for person-centred planning and how to prepare for some of the most common transitions. You can also find more information that is relevant for planning in other chapters:  

2. Person-Centred Planning 

Person-centred planning brings a group of people together to plan for an individual. It recognizes a person’s unique gifts and strengthens relationships among those members of a caring community who have come together for that person. 

 Several formal processes are helpful for creating person-centred plans. These include MAPS, PATHs (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope), and Circles of Support. These tools are all designed to help individuals achieve their hopes and dreams. 


MAPS is a planning process that begins with forming a caring team around a person. The first step involves telling the person’s history. Team members share their dreams for the person’s future and express their fears about that future. They also identify the person’s strengths, gifts, and abilities. Read more about MAPS here 


graphic depicting the different stages in a PATH mapped out for individuals

PATH is a creative planning process — for individuals, schools, families, groups, and businesses — that brings people together to address a common issue, difficult problem, or plan for a stage or moment of life. As in MAPS, the process begins with forming a caring team around a person and the team’s purpose is to build a common understanding and create the needed support. PATH starts with defining the person’s vision, ‘the North Star’, and sharing a dream for the future. The team then identifies the steps that must be taken to make that dream come true, including identifying people or organizations who can support this plan. It helps families identify networks of support. Most importantly, the PATH process empowers the person by putting their voice at the centre to make choices for their life 

reference to external resource iconHow to do a PATH or MAP


3. Transition Planning 

Your child will experience many transitions throughout their education: 

  • from home to preschool/daycare or kindergarten;  
  • from preschool/daycare to kindergarten;  
  • from school to school 
  • from grade three to grade four;  
  • from elementary school to middle or high school; and 
  • from high school to post-secondary education or adult life.  

Transitions can be hard. This may be due partly to the uncertainty of new settings, or changes in services and supports that occur with transitions. Planning for critical transition periods may help to ease the bumps in the road. Transition planning can reduce some of the tension for parents/caregivers and provide a better experience for children. 
reference to external resource iconThe Transitions Timeline from the Family Support Institute’s findSupportBC website is a great resource that can help you plan by age, from birth to 25 years old.

4. Planning for Kindergarten 

Planning for the transition into kindergarten will help ensure the right supports are in place when your child starts in September. While this first transition can be difficult, it can also be rewarding, as children meet new friends and develop a sense of agency and belonging. 

Know that your child has the reference to other chapter iconright to attend school full time (Chapter 3) and supports should be in place as soon as possible to make that happen.   

Many school districts follow a formal process for children entering kindergarten who have been identified as having a disability or additional support needs. You can learn this process by contacting the school principal or the district inclusive education lead 

Some parents choose to delay kindergarten by one year. The BC School Act says a “parent may defer the enrolment of his or her child until the first school day of the next school year.” Schools often strongly encourage parents to enroll their child alongside their same-age peers but it will depend on you and your child.  

Another option is a preschool over-age year when your child is in the school system but attending preschool for an extra year before they begin kindergarten. 

a. Who to Involve

By the time your child enters kindergarten, you may have a team of professionals who have been supporting your child since the beginning. It’s a good idea to involve them in planning for the transition to kindergarten, and then include them in the reference to other chapter iconIEP process (Chapter 5) 

  • See the reference to other chapter iconPartners in the Educational Journey section (Chapter 8 coming soon) for a list of professionals and partners.  

Some of these professionals provide reference to other chapter iconassessments (Chapter 4) that can help your child receive the support they need. These assessments can inform the transition planning and can provide strategies that would support your child. 

The Ministry of Education recommends that parents of children with “special needs” “contact the Inclusive Education Staff in the district where your child will attend school well in advance of the time your child will enter.” Children with Disabilities or Diverse Abilities: Starting School 

The title of the person responsible for inclusive education varies between school districts. 

You’ll want to schedule a formal meeting with the reference to other chapter iconschool principal (Chapter 3) to discuss your child’s needs six to eight months before they enter school. At these initial meetings, you may want to ask about the school’s preparedness for including and supporting your child.  

If your child goes to preschool or attends daycare, sometimes the preschool or daycare centre will help with the transition by joining the early meeting(s). They can provide valuable information about how your child is being supported in the preschool or daycare environment.  

In addition to formal meetings, meeting with school personnel informally can help you reference to other chapter iconbuild school relationships (Chapter 2) 


b. Questions to Ask 

When you meet with the principal and/or the district inclusive education lead, you’ll want to talk about your child and ask questions.  

  • How can I help make sure that my child’s school entry will go smoothly?  
  • Have you received adequate documentation about my child?  
  • Do I need to sign a release form so that you may receive information from other professionals?  
  • Are there any documents I can provide or any forms I should fill out to help you get a picture of my child’s needs?  
  • Is there staff with knowledge or experience related to my child’s needs?  
  • How will staff be prepared for my child’s school entry?  
  • When will a classroom teacher (and possibly education assistant) be assigned?  
  • When will it be possible to meet with the teacher (and education assistant, if applies)?  
  • Can we arrange a classroom visit and/or school tour before the school year begins?  
  • Is the school physically accessible? Is the necessary equipment available?  


reference to external resource iconc. Resources: Transition to Kindergarten

Your school district may have additional resources to support your child’s transition to kindergarten. 

reference to other chapter icond. Other Helpful Links in this Handbook


5. Other Transitions

Once your child is in school, the goals of a transition plan should be incorporated into the IEP as appropriate. As students get older and can participate, they should be involved in transition planning. At the end of high school, the use of person-centred planning is important.  

reference to other chapter iconSee also Including Transitions in the IEP (Chapter 5) and Person-Centred Planning 

a. Grade Four:

The transition to grade four or five can be difficult for students and families. Over these years children grow in many different ways. The strategies that worked in the early grades may not work as well and you may need to revisit assessments. For many, it’s a time of reflection, change, and adaptation.  

Around this time learning difficulties can become apparent and the school may refer your child for an reference to other chapter iconassessment (Chapter 4), which might result in an reference to other chapter iconIEP (Chapter 5) or a reference to other chapter iconStudent Learning Plan (Chapter 5). 

Academic expectations and student workloads may also increase around this time. Many schools move to a grading system or learning assessment becomes more formal. Know that your child has the right to access the curriculum alongside their peers, with the right accommodations, and there is support available to make this happen. 


6. Transition out of Elementary School

The transition out of elementary school is a big one. For students who live in districts with middle schools, this happens usually in grade six as they go to middle school from grades 7-9 (the distribution of grades can be different in each district). The transition into middle school can be difficult because students are still relatively young. 

Increased expectations of independence mean students will do more on their own and less as a class group. The school is often bigger with many new faces. As with any transition, there is also potential for positive change. Sometimes the middle school will offer more learning opportunities and resources for the student.   

Each school district will have its schedule and way of supporting the transition to middle school, but this reference to external resource iconsample “Middle School Entry Transition Cycle” from School District 43 may be helpful. 

In this sample, the student’s case manager develops the transition plan with the team in the fall of the year before transition. The transition goals are written into the student’s IEP.  

In the spring, the middle school resource teacher and/or the assigned case manager meets with the parents/caregivers of students.  


a. Middle School Transition Tips from Parents/Caregivers:
  • Make a picture book (or social story) of the inside and outside of the middle school and talk about it over the summer with your child. 
  • Email the school a couple of weeks before school starts. Let them know how the summer went, if there have been any changes, and ask if your child can walk through the school before the start date. 


b. Questions to Ask in the Early Meetings:
  • What are the main differences between elementary and middle school? 
  • What will the first week look like? Can my child visit the school in the weeks before it starts? 
  • What resources will be available to help with the transition? (accessing lockers, getting from class to class, etc.) 
  • What resources are available that will continue after the transition? 


7. The Transition to High School

The move to high school is a big transition and some students and families struggle with this change. Transition planning should identify strategies and tools to support a smooth transition.  

Both the transition to middle school and the transition to high school should involve multiple site visits to the new school. Students who are comfortable in the new school, who know where they’re going, are likely to settle in more easily.  

Each school district will have its own schedule and way of supporting the transition to high school. 

reference to external resource iconThis Transitioning to High School guide from the BC Centre for Ability provides a comprehensive overview of what to expect, how to plan, and more.  

As you plan for high school you will probably already be thinking about life after high school. If you and your child envision a life where employment and post-secondary education are an option, you will likely want to include work experience or career development in your course planning.  

Different high schools support students with disabilities and additional support needs in different ways. Some schools have separate programs and classes while others are fully inclusive. And some have a hybrid of both. Find out in advance what model is used in your school district.   

Your child may require an reference to other chapter iconupdated assessment (Chapter 4) to inform supports and strategies in high school. Consult with your child’s case manager two years before the transition to high school to find out if any updated assessments are needed. 

reference to external resource iconResources: Transition to High School

8. High School to Adult Life

Leaving high school and embarking on adult life is a major transition, and it’s important to plan well in advance. Planning should begin in grade 9 or 10, and the IEP should incorporate new goals to prepare students for upcoming life changes.  

IEPs in high school should begin to prepare for options after high school, including the following:  

  • plan further learning opportunities in post-secondary or other programs,  
  • develop employment objectives,  
  • consider reference to other chapter iconassessments (Chapter 4) that may be needed to transition into adult services, 
  • if appropriate, access adult community living supports and opportunities through Community Living BC. 

At this stage of planning, you may need to include other community professionals. A reference to other chapter iconChild and Youth with Support Needs (CYSN) social worker (Chapter 8 coming soon) from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) or a facilitator from Community Living BC (CLBC) may be an important member of the transition team. 

To create the best possible future options, begin transition planning early. Build a transition planning team that focuses on the student and that includes family and friends, school personnel, community professionals, and service coordinators as appropriate.  

In B.C., students remain eligible for educational programs through the school year in which they turn 19. During this year, they must be provided with a full-time educational program.  

Students who have an IEP with adaptations and who are pursuing a Dogwood Diploma may be eligible to remain in school until they’re 21. reference to other chapter iconSee “Grade 13” in the IEP section of this handbook. 

a. Inclusive Post-Secondary 

Post-Secondary is one of the options for life after high school that is becoming more and more available for students with disabilities and additional support needs. Inclusive post-secondary initiatives are challenging preconceptions to ensure that students with disabilities and additional support needs have equitable access to post-secondary education so they can get the same benefits that any student would have and be successful.  

reference to external resource iconEducation Planner BC is the provincial site to explore options and understand the process to go to post-secondary education. All B.C. post-secondary institutions have a disability or accessibility services department to work with students on how to best meet their needs and support them to achieve their goals. The reference to other chapter iconsupports and strategies documented (Chapter 5) in your child’s IEP will be helpful for starting a conversation at the college or university level.  

reference to external resource iconSTEPS Forward, B.C.’s Initiative for Inclusive Post-Secondary Education, provides inclusion support for students with developmental disabilities to access post-secondary education. They have partnerships with nine major universities in B.C.  

reference to external resource iconResources: 

b. Transition Planning and Assessments 

As you plan for life after high school, think about any assessments that need to be completed or updated. According to the Tasks Timeline for Transition Planning, the student and the parent/caregiver should start learning about require assessments at age 14-15 and have them completed at age 16.  

Assessments are required as verification to access CLBC services, provincial Persons with Disability (PWD) benefits and some post-secondary student aid for students with disabilities. 

Some assessments, though not required to access services, are helpful in setting up supports after high school. An updated reference to other chapter iconFunctional Behaviour Assessment (Chapter 4), for example, will inform a positive reference to other chapter iconbehaviour support plan (Chapter 4) to help build supports after high school.  

There are many resources that provide these details step by step to help you plan for life after high school.  

reference to external resource iconc. Resources: Planning the Transition out of High School  

d. Video Resources

e. On My Way: Transition Planning Project 

The Inclusion BC transition planning guide includes information about person-centred planning and tips on transition planning by age.  

The “On My Way” blog showcases the planning process through videos and stories of four students and their families. Visit the blog at   

The information found in this booklet is organized by age and is based upon the “Roles and Tasks Timeline for Transition Planning Team Members” (Appendix C of the Cross Ministry Transition Planning Protocol, revised September 2012) 

cover page of On My Way book.

f. Services to Adults with Developmental Disabilities (STADD) 

Through the Services to Adults with Developmental Disabilities (STADD) program, a Navigator can help you plan for the transition out of high school.  

STADD brings together cross-ministry supports to help youth with disabilities plan for a full life after high school. Navigators within the program work with youth and their families to build a plan that is based on their goals, hopes, and aspirations for the future.  

Navigators are located in communities across B.C. and can help you access local and provincial resources. 

reference to other chapter icong. Other Resources in this Handbook



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