Transitioning for Young Adults with Special Needs

Transitioning for Young Adults with Special Needs

Transitioning to independence during young adulthood is a pivotal and challenging time for everyone. For young adults with special needs, these periods can particularly difficult. People with special needs, such as autism spectrum disorders or learning disabilities, may have social and communicative deficits which will impair their ability to advocate for themselves. Adjusting to having fewer and less structured supports is difficult and many teens and young adults are simply unprepared! 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 1 in 5 people in America have some sort of disability -- that’s nearly 50 million people!  As the special needs population ages, and children with disabilities begin to transition to adulthood, often the supports and services, to which they have become accustomed, will fade away -- leaving them unprepared and under-supported.

In America, only 70.5% of all students graduate from high school with a diploma, while only 56% of students with disabilities graduate! (National Council on Disability, 24th Annual Report to Congress). Once the existing supports that are present in high school (such as smaller class sizes, teachers, and the support of parents while living at home) are no longer accessible, the statistics become even more grim. For example, on average only 50% of students who enter college actually graduate. For students with disabilities, only 8% who enter college complete their coursework and graduate.  The growing population of college-bound students with disabilities, may need more support and assistance than is typically provided or available to them. 

The good news? When young adults and their families recognize and prepare for the transition to college and independent living, more positive outcomes are possible! Many young people need explicit instruction, coaching, and practice to develop independent living skills and learn the tools necessary for college life. There are wonderful new programs available that can help teens and young adults get prepared. These programs provide individualized life skills coaching for young adults facing unique challenges, as well as skill-building and support in the college setting. Practicing these skills in their community (i.e., on a college campus, in their home environment) can help young adults gain confidence and advance toward greater levels of independence. For more information on one such program see

Advance LA is helping prepare young adults with special needs for their futures.  This summer, they are offering two unique camps.  The College Summer Intensive Program is meant to transition young adults from high school to college.  This camp focuses on social skills, study skills, learning styles, time management, navigating campuses, self advocacy, independent living skills, and other skills needed for this transition.  The Vocational Skills Training Program serves 18-24 year olds with autism spectrum disorder, learning challenges, and other special needs to help them focus on the world of work.  Through a comprehensive vocational assessment, career exploration, training, workplace skills, and social skills sessions, individuals with special needs will learn what they need to know to enter the workplace.  See the flyer below and visit for more information.

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Written by: Amy Jane Griffiths, PhD See other articles by Amy Jane Griffiths, PhD
About the Author:
Licensed Clinical Psychologist PSY 24536

Director of Clinical Services and Programs, ADVANCE LA
(818) 779-5327  |  13130 Burbank Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91401

Founded in 1975, The Help Group is the largest, most innovative and comprehensive nonprofit of its kind in the United States serving children with special needs related to autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays, abuse and emotional problems.

The Help Group's seven specialized day schools offer pre-K through high school programs for more than 1,400 students. The Help Group's broad range of mental health and therapy services, child abuse and residential programs extends its reach to more than 6,000 children and their families each year. With more than 900 staff members, The Help Group's state-of-the-art schools and programs are located on six campuses in the Los Angeles area.

The Help Group is widely regarded for its high standards of excellence, unique scope and breadth of services. Through its public awareness, professional training and parent education programs and efforts at the state and national levels, The Help Group touches the lives of children with special needs across the country and in other parts of the world.

At the heart of its effort is the commitment to helping young people fulfill their potential to lead positive, productive and rewarding lives.

Visit The Help Group onlineFacebook, and Twitter.

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