The purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is "to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living." Section 1400(d) The phrase "further education" and the emphasis on effective transition services is new in IDEA 2004. Section 1400(c)(14) describes the need to provide "effective transition services to promote successful post-school employment and/or education.
Congress also made significant changes in the legal definition of "transition services" in IDEA 2004.
The term "transition services" means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that:
- is designed to be 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.