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What happens after high school?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute & Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts
Created February, 2022

High school ends when your child:

  • earns their high school diploma, or
  • turns 22 if they are a student with an IEP.
  • Your child with a disability can stay in school until they are 22 if they have not yet earned their high school diploma.

If your child has an IEP

The school must prepare your child for life after high school—including: living independently, getting a job, going to college or getting job training, and accessing disability services.

You start planning for your child’s life after high school when they turn 14.

When they turn 14

Your child's Team must start planning for your child's life after high school Your child’s IEP must include goals and services to help your child get ready for education, employment, and independent community living after high school.

The Team should base the goals on your child’s interests, preferences and strengths.  

For example

  • If your child is interested in working with animals, the school could help find a job or volunteer opportunity with an animal shelter.
  • If your child wants to attend college, your child’s IEP goals might focus on the type of communication skills they will need to get help when they are in college.

The Team uses a Transition Assessment to decide the services your child needs.

Before your child turns 17

Before or when your child turns 17, the school must tell both you and your child about your child's rights to make their own educational decisions when they turn 18,

At 18 your child is an adult

They can make their own educational decisions.

You can only make educational decisions for them if:

  • You are their court appointed guardian. Or
  • They sign a form provided by the school that says they want to share decision making with you or they want you to make their educational decisions for them.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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