Transition Resources

Table of Contents:

Welcome to the SMILE Mass Transition Resources Page

In a world of raising children and adults with disabilities, the only thing that is guaranteed is constant change.  New laws, IEPs, requirements, and lots and lots of paperwork.

We have created this resource page with the hope that this can save you some time, and perhaps even give you some of the answers you might be looking for.


A life transition is a journey.  A passage from one life stage to another.  For young adults with special needs “transition” commonly refers to the progression from school to adult life in the wider community.

Many families have described the special needs transition process as “falling off a cliff,” due to the loss of school-based services provided to their children under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Children covered by the IDEA receive services as an entitlement.  After graduation, however, there is no automatic right to disability-related services, and parents and guardians must work with state and federal agencies to put together a package of services and supports that will best meet their adult children’s needs.  Support is available to assist your child with many issues s/he may face in adult life, including: employment, housing, and medical care, along with cash benefits for those unable to work.  While a variety of services can be funded and managed through state and federal programs, you need to know where to look and plan wisely to ensure that your loved one can maximize his/her benefits.

Under the IDEA, the transition process begins when a student turns 14.  At this point (and no later than age 16), school and district personnel should be working with the student and his/her family to explore available options and services that will enable the student to live a meaningful adult life in the community following graduation.

Transition encompasses much more that the progression from the school system to the adult disability services world, however.  Families must also consider issues involving legal decision-making authority, financial planning, housing, and vocational or day habilitation placements for their adult children.

While not a comprehensive guide, SMILE Mass’s Transition Resource page will provide you with materials and links to explore so that you will have a better idea of the services and options available for your soon-to-be adult child.  With knowledge and planning, the transition process doesn’t have to feel like you and your family are falling off a cliff;  instead, you can view this time as an opportunity to guide your child to a fulfilling adult life.

Special thanks to Annette Hines, Esq., founding partner of the Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts, who generously shared her time, expertise and materials to assist us in preparing this resource page.


A Family Guide to Transition Services in Massachusetts (Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission & Federation for Children with Special Needs, 2013

Important Transition Information Every Family Should Know:  Transition Information Fact Sheets (Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services, April, 2015

Special Needs Advocacy Toolkit (Mass NAELA, 2018

The Road Forward: A DDS Guide for Transition Planning (Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services, 2013

Unlocking the Door to Community Living: a guide for families of people with disabilities (Jewish Family & Children’s Service,  June 2011

Timelines & Checklists

Transition from School to Adult Life – Time Lines (The ARC of Greater Haverill-Newburyport

Transition Checklist (Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts, PC, 2018

Turning 18 Checklist (Autism Housing Pathways

Helpful Links


Forms and filing instructions

Probate and Family Court Locations

Rogers Guardianship (for individuals taking antipsychotic medication)

Adult Family Care & Guardianship

Adult Family Care (AFC) and the Co-Guardianship Dilemma (Barbara Jackins, Esq.

Alternatives to Guardianship

Alternatives to Guardianship & Guardianship (Disability Law Center

Health Care Proxy

HIPAA Authorization 

Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) 

Supported Decision Making (overview & links to forms)


Public Agencies & Benefits

Chapter 688 Referrals (school refers student with severe disabilities to adult services agency)

Department of Developmental Services (DDS)

  • This agency provides a variety of supports for adults with disabilities and their families, including: employment and day program supports, community living and other residential supports, respite, in-home skills training, and companion services.

Department of Mental Health (DMH)

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC)

  • This agency is responsible for vocational rehabilitation, community living, and eligibility determinations for Supplemental Security Income (SS!) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI).

Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB)

Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing (MCDHH)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits


Social Security Disability (SSDI) Benefits

Mass Health & Medicaid


Financial Planning

Special Needs Trusts (SNT)


ABLE Accounts

  • Massachusetts ABLE accounts: Attainable Savings Plan
  • ABLE National Resource Center:


    Affordable and Subsidized Housing Options For People with Disabilities in Massachusetts (Autism Housing Pathways)

    Section 8 vouchers

    Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)

    Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP)

    Common Housing Application for Massachusetts Public Housing (CHAMP)

    HousingWorks (search engine allows users to search housing options available through a variety of programs)

    MassAccess Accessible Housing Registry

    Specialized Housing, Inc.

    Agencies providing housing and housing supports (group homes, shared living arrangements, supported housing):


    Getting a Government Identification Card

    Get a non-driver Mass ID card through the RMV


    Registering for the Selective Service

    Males must register within 30 days of their 18th birthday, even if disabled

    Special Thanks To Our Sponsors:
    “SMILE Mass offered the Ocean Park, Maine community with a beach wheelchair in 2017. IT was used all summer long and people loved the freedom it gave them to see and experience the beach. This donation is a way for us to continue to say thanks. Your work is very important!”
    Gerard Gosselin