Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. 

In IDEA (2004), Congress stated as follows:

“Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of the individual to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy on ensuring quality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.”

The relevant purposes of the law are:

  • to ensure that children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.
  • To ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected.

Schools are responsible to provide transition services which are defined under IDEA (20 U.S.C. 1401 (34)) as a “coordinated set of activities” that:

  • is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment including supported employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.
  • is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths preferences, and interests.
  • includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.

The federal regulations for IDEA include Procedural Safeguards that are designed to give families certain rights and the means to resolve their disputes with the school, including:

  • the right to receive a complete explanation of all procedural safeguards.
  • confidentiality and the right to inspect and review the educational records of the child.
  • the right to participate in meetings regarding the identification, evaluations, and placement of the child as well as the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
  • the right to obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE) of the child.
  • the right to receive prior written notice on matters related to the identification evaluation or placement of their child and the provision of FAPE.
  • the right to give or deny consent before the school takes certain actions about the child.
  • the right to disagree with decisions made by the school system.
  • the right to use IDES dispute resolution processes including the right to appeal.

See https://www.parentcenterhub.org/parental-rights/ for more information on Parent Rights under IDEA.

See https://www.pacer.org/transition/learning-center/laws/idea.asp the PACER Center National Parent Center on Transition and Employment for more information on IDEA.

Massachusetts General Laws (MGL), Chapter 71B – Special Education statute


603 CMR 28.00 – Special Education regulations https://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr28.html

Massachusetts General Laws (MGL), Chapter 688


Chapter 688 provides a planning process for adult services to address the needs of young adults with severe disabilities as they end their public-school education and transition into the adult service system. The planning process starts at least two-year before graduation from high school or when special education services end, whichever comes first.  At that time, the school district makes a Chapter 688 referral directly to human services agencies as well as to the Bureau of Transition Planning. Since special education services can continue until the child turns age 22, the law is also known as the “Turning 22 law”.

For more information on Chapter 688 from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)

Transition Information for Parents and Students (TIPS) brochures:  Chapter 688 Referral https://fcsn.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2021/08/chapter-688-referral-english.pdf

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Advisories provide guidance on how DESE interprets the laws and regulations:

Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2009-1: Transition Planning to Begin at Age 14 https://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/advisories/09_1ta.html

Administrative Advisory SPED 2011-1: Age of Majority https://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/advisories/11_1.html

Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2013-1: Postsecondary Goals and Annual IEP Goals in the Transition Planning Process


Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2014-4: Transition Assessment in the Secondary Transition Planning Process


Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2016- 2: Promoting Student Self-Determination to Improve Student Outcomes


Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2017-1: Characteristics of High-Quality Secondary Transition Services


Administrative Advisory SPED 2018-2: Secondary Transition Services and Graduation with a High School Diploma


Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2018-4 Guidance on MA Commission for the Blind Pre-Employment Transition Services


Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2020-1 MA Rehabilitation Commission Pre-Employment