For young adults with special needs, the transition from high school to adult life brings a new set of opportunities and challenges. Your child must have a transition plan by age 16. Beginning to plan early will increase his opportunity to achieve the greatest independence. As challenging as the day-to-day can be raising a special needs child, planning can’t wait.
The first step is to form a transition team. The team includes you (the parent or guardian), your child, educators, employers (if your child is employed) and administrators. It incorporates many areas of your child’s life–vocational and employment, post-secondary education, life skills, life plan and legal and financial planning. Your child should have the central role in planning, expressing his desires for his future. You, the parent, are the lead advocate in helping your child become independent.
As you create your child’s transition plan, there are many factors to consider. Consider what experiences your child has had, and create opportunities for new experiences. For example, if your child has not had a job, help him find a part-time job or volunteer opportunity. Engage her in community activities so that she is comfortable in a variety of situations with different people. Keep in mind quality-of-life issues. Does your child have a social network or the skills to build one? Consider a service club at school, or Boy or Girl Scouts, or a youth program at your church or temple.
Learn what housing services are available and what will be the best fit for your child, from a residential group home to supported living services. Find out what work training programs are available. Coaching and mentoring services can help your adult child with a myriad of issues, from friendships to intimate relationships to recreational activities.
As the parent, you will need to establish the financial and legal support to help your child throughout his adulthood. Parents should create a legal document that will protect your child and your wishes. Work with an attorney and financial advisor who specialize in special needs or dis- abilities.
Remember you are not alone. There are many resources to support your child at each stage of his life. Your transition team brings valuable resources and referrals to share with you. Ask questions. Seek counsel. Advocate.