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Special Education/High school senior transitoning to graduation


My 19 year old daughter is graduating high school at the end of this month. She is going to a therapeutic school that our school district wanted her to go to (bullied, attempted suicide, social skills)
She is ADHD, mild LD and emotionally disabled (severe depression, maturity of 12 year old)
The district feels she is too advanced for the transition program (we agree). She is participating in the job transition program in connection with the state and SEDOL over the summer
and the district will then give her diploma in September.

My question is that I do not feel she is ready to graduate because of her impairments. It feels like the district canít wait to get rid of her.
What are my options? We live in lake County, Illinois.   Would SEDOL (Special Education District of Lake County) take over? If this fits into the 18-22 age guidelines for delaying diploma then I think we should do this.
Thank you for your guidance.

Hello, Jacqui,

Thanks so much for reaching out to me.  I am going to try my best to answer your question, but this can be a tricky area, so at the end of my answer, I am going to recommend that you contact a special education attorney.  You can find one at

If a student, regardless of age and school placement,completes the graduation requirements, and this student's outcome is a diploma (not a certificate), then the student graduates.  Once a student completes graduation requirements, the student is exited from IDEA based services, or special education.  

I know many parents are concerned about the student's future, given that many students with complex needs complete the graduation requirements without really obtaining the skills needed for higher education or employment.

Here are the IL graduation requirements.

That being said,I have been involved in situations where the student receives compensatory education services or services are extended because of a failure of the school district to provide a free appropriate public education to the student.  

If I understand your question, your daughter has met all graduation requirements except for one,and that one is being completed this summer.  

I would expect that her transition plan, part of the IEP, has connected her with multiple community agencies, and that there has been a coordinated set of activities to assiste her in making the transition to adulthood.  Unfortunately, after exiting from IDEA/IEP services,the adult agency are need-based, not entitlement services.  This means that there is an application process and services can be denied with little remedy.

I think unless you can show that there has been a denial of FAPE, your daughter appears to be headed toward dismissal from special education through meeting graduation requirements.  
It may be your focus should be on higher education accommodations or other services via adult agencies listed in the transition plan.

I found this letter of guidance but am not sure if it relates to your situation.

Overall, I feel you are asking a legal question. Therefore, I think you should consult a special education attorney in your state.  I am also not aware of the transition program you mentioned,but it appears to be the last requirement for her diploma.

I am sorry I don't have better news from my perspective. It would be critical for you to do a dispute now, though, if you are going to do one,with an attorney guiding the way.
If you want to follow up and give me more information about "the 18-22 age guidelines for delaying diploma " you mention, I will be happy to answer a follow up question.

Thank you so much for writing to me, and for using the service at this site!  

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.


10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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