Creative Alternatives for IEP Transition Planning (COVID-19 friendly)

Being a special education teacher instructing remotely is far from easy. There are limited aspects of our jobs to see the benefits of teaching virtually over teaching in-person. For my friends who are special educators, you likely are facing double the challenge of having to wear two hats - one as a classroom teacher and the other as a special education case manager.

If there’s a silver lining in all of this, my Case Manager hat would be screaming “TRANSITION SERVICE PLANNING!”.  Formerly a process that was case-manager designed and facilitated around school-and community learning opportunities has been flipped upside down where students and their families are expected to take a more active role in-home and community-based activities.  Thanks to the shift to remote and blended learning, the top-down transition planning model is now a three-way shared responsibility (teacher, student, and parent/guardian).

Here are some creative alternatives to your traditional transition planning and implementation steps. These alternatives allow you to get the data and information you need to meet policy and planning purposes while providing students with opportunities to strengthen their self-determination skills and social skills. All the while making the parent/guardian experience stress and hassle-free by placing more responsibility on their child. For best results, confer with your IEP team members to solicit feedback and recruit support before attempting these alternatives.

Traditional Transition Planning Step:

Conduct a formal interview with the student to learn about their future aspirations and goals for life after high school

Creative Alternatives:

Students interview each other

Design an activity where students conduct and record interviewing each other. You can support students in developing their own interview questions or provide a pre-approved list. Check out this lesson plan on teaching students about how to conduct interviews (with FREE printables) that feature this classroom-ready youtube video that touches on four tips for conducting an interview.  


Students develop a web-based aspiration board

Using whatever social media platform the student prefers, create an activity where the student creates an aspirational board to visually demonstrate their future aspirations such as links to their dream job, inspirational quotes, degrees and/or training opportunities that connect to their future aspirations, dream apartment, etc. There are some awesome easy-to-learn apps and tools perfect for students to develop aspiration boards. Check out this teachers post with a FREE vision board template already made using Buncee. 


Plan and Facilitate a Person-Centered Planning Exercise

Perfect for digital platforms like Zoom or Microsoft teams, facilitate a person-centered planning exercise. One of my favorite PCP specifically designed as an ongoing problem-solving process used to help people with disabilities plan for their future is the P.A.T.H process. Check out a great resource on the PCP exercise P.A.T.H via and visiting the North Stars Facilitators website for step-by-step guides, videos, and examples.

Use A Transition Survey on Google Forms

Conduct a transition interview with your student virtually using this Google Form

All of the required transition areas (education/training, employment, and independent living) are included in this questionnaire so that you can cover all of your bases with this one interview! This was created for students who may not able to read and might have difficultly answering questions.  All questions can be answered with the question, “what do you like?” if needed to further simplify for students.

Available in printable and digital formats at the BSE Shop or Breezy Special on TpT.

Traditional Transition Planning Step:

Select and administer valid and reliable Transition assessment tools to quantify student's transition “strengths” and “needs” 

Creative Alternatives:

Student records themselves doing a life-skill to later self-assess their performance

What a better way to teach self-assessment and self-awareness, than having students watch and assess their own skills in action? Work with your students to identify a new life skill that can learn and rehearse in their home or in the community. Check out this great video a parent took of their children purchasing ingredients and following a recipe. 


Together with the student talk through the video footage together and help them self-assess their performance and talk through the challenges they experienced.


Students design and conduct peer and adult surveys

Asking for feedback can be intimidating. Accepting critical feedback is a life skill necessary for job and independent living. Design a lesson that has students develop survey prompts and/or questions to ask siblings, relatives, and friends, to rate them on their skills. Check out this simplified resource outlining the four steps to teach students how to gather feedback and present the results of their findings and this expansive resource with 40 lesson plans focused on qualitative and quantitative data collection.


Watch a video to learn and assess skills for interested professions

Using whatever career/profession, find student-friendly videos that showcase various aspects of that profession. Have the student reflect and evaluate the career/profession on things like skills needed for the job, qualities they possess that would be useful to have in that career/profession (aka their “strengths” connected to the profession), and aspects of the job that they might find challenging to identify areas of potential learning growth (aka their transition “needs”). Here is a free worksheet where students can record their career/profession research findings.


Virtual job shadow day

Match the student with a professional conducting their business/work virtually based on their future career aspirations. As data collection, have the student interview the professional or record and track the skills the professional used to do their job, to then compare those job qualification skills with the skills the student possesses. In essence, this experience will allow the student to develop a list of “strengths” they have connected to the career/profession and a list of skills or experience that can target acquiring over time. Here is a fantastic lesson plan focused on 


Student attends a Virtual College and Vocational Training Tour

Many colleges and vocational schools are offering synchronous or asynchronous campus tours to learn more about post-secondary education institutions. Have the student research a campus of interest and develop questions to acquire information about the institution. This is a great opportunity for students to learn about accommodations offered to students with disabilities. Parents/Guardians can easily join in on the virtual tour as well! This printer-ready college accessibility checklist is perfect for our students with unique mobility challenges. 

TIP: To replace traditional transition assessment tools like a Likert scale or survey, be sure that your creative alternative gathers valid and reliable data that provides the IEP team with dependable data on the student’s transition “strengths” and “needs”.

Traditional Transition Planning Step:

Case manager interviews the Parent(s)/Guardian(s) about their child’s transition-related “strengths” and “needs, and parental concerns about their child’s future post high school graduation

Creative Alternatives:

Student interviews their parent/guardian

Design an activity where students conduct and record an interview with their parent/guardian about their future aspirations for their child. Parents can provide more feedback in a traditional parent/guardian transition survey that takes into consideration what the parent shared in their recorded interview. Storycorps is my top resource that provides hundreds of archived interviews of lived experiences among family and friends, many of which address the topic of disability and life aspirations. They even provide a lesson plan on how to teach students effective interviewing skills here.


Parent/Guardian video

Social media sites like FB and TikTok are littered with videos of parents chronicling life as a parent. With minimal direction needed on basic transition topics or questions, encourage the parent/guardian to record themselves freely reflecting on their child's transition-related "strengths" and "needs" and aspirations for their child's future.

Traditional Transition Planning Step:

Develop student-specific Transition services and activities for each of the three Transition domains that must be provided to the student in a school or community setting with a school staff member present

Creative Alternatives:

Student attends free community-based workshops. 

Gyms, home improvement stores, Art supply stores, and even your local YMCA offer FREE in-person and virtual workshops to friends of all ages to learn new skills and trades. Have students research opportunities of interest in their local or digital community. Access one of the free 353 classes offered on Skillshare organized by interests, or pay just $8 a month to access all 2,890 classes.


Learn a new hobby. Practice. Show and Tell. 

Often forgotten but equally important, transition skills also include hobbies and interests. Have student identify a new hobby or skill they'd like to acquire. With your support, develop a system where students can develop a track their progress in acquiring and practicing the new hobby. Celebrate student's hobby and self-determination growth, by organizing a virtual show and tell event for students to share their documented experiences. Check out some of these ideas for a virtual show and tell.


Recruit Agency Support. 

Face it. Teachers need all hands on deck to provide our students with disabilities the supervision and support they need to excel. Contact your local Transition Coordinator (check out this helpful resource) to learn about agencies, businesses, and companies that are trained and skills in providing federal or state-funded transition services. Here are some of my favorite agencies to check out: Check out this comprehensive list of vocational rehabilitation agencies organized by state 

TIP: It’s always best practice to consult your LEA to confirm that parent/guardian data collection is acceptable when reporting opportunities and progress towards IEP transition service/activities.

Traditional Transition Planning Step:

Track and record student’s participation in the Transition service/activities

Creative Alternatives:

Shared Google Doc.

Create and share a google doc, sheets, or even a calendar to track activities your students and their families are doing at home or in the community that connects to their transition plan. Managing personal files and medical appointments can be tricky. 

Students can learn a life skill of managing their personal and school responsibilities on a calendar and you can track their activities and completion using the same platform. Here is a simplified printable lesson plan introducing students to google docs.


Student-made photo album. 

For our digital and photo-collector enthusiasts encourage students to design a digital photo album composed of selfies of them completing lessons, activities, projects, chores, etc. that documents their progress towards learning and mastering transition-based skills. Check out this lesson plan on teaching students how to create an informative picture book.


Start a class social media group 

Create and monitor a class social media group for students and families to post selfies and other photos of weekly activities at home and in their local community that connect to the students' future aspirations and transition services activities. Tag photos to easily track posts from each student to quickly access when it comes time to report on a student's transition service/activity opportunities and/or completion.


Select, assign and track video viewings

One great resource I use for videos is EdPuzzle. Simply create a FREE virtual class for students to join using your class code, to easily "assign" students to watch videos that connect to their transition service/activity. You can even embed customized questions throughout the video to pause and help students reflect on what they've learned thus far.  Assign YouTube, TedTalks, and more videos to help students learn life-skills like yard maintenance, animal care, basic sewing skills, etc. EdPuzzle even allows you to include subtitles and prevent skipping.

During these unique times as a SPED teacher, tap into your creative juices.  Implementing these creative alternatives to traditional transition planning and implementation steps will increase student and family involvement and buy-in, thus providing our students with a greater chance to live happy independent lives post high school graduation.

We want to know what Transition services and activities are you including in your IEPs for students attending your virtual or blended classroom? Share and join the conversation over in the Breezy Special Ed insiders group on Facebook!


Thanks for reading my guest blog post. My name is Dr. Ashley Miller. Over the last nine years, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of preparing future SPED PreK-12 teachers as a university Professor at a local public university in Pennsylvania. Before joining the university classroom, I served as a Transition Teacher and Case Manager to high school freshmen for ten years and shared responsibilities in leading a unique middle school in North Philadelphia as Interim Principal. One daily routine I miss as a former teacher is writing IEP Transition Plans. Thankfully I still have opportunities to develop strong IEP Transition plans as an educational and instructional resources for my college-bound aspiring teachers. When I’m not teaching synchronous courses via Zoom, I enjoy the quiet life of morning workouts, reading self-published sci-fi books, and exploring new home improvement skills with the company of my best friend and spouse of 16 years and our loyal four-year-old canine companion. 

1 comment

  1. I cannot seem to open the google drive about teaching students how to interview each other.


(C) Brie Holtrop- Breezy Special Ed. Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top