For young adults with special needs, the transition from high school to adult life brings a new set of opportunities and chal- lenges. Your child must have a transition plan by age 16. Begin- ning to plan early will increase his opportunity to achieve the great- est 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 transi- tion 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 – vo- cational and employment, post- secondary education, life skills, life plan and legal and financial planning. Your child should have the central role in planning, ex- pressing his desires for his future. You, the parent, are the lead advo- cate 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 com- munity activities so that she is comfortable in a variety of situa- tions 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 resi- dential 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 friendshipsto intimate relationships to recre- ational 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 at- torney and financial advisor who specialize in special needs or dis- abilities.
Remember you are not alone. There are many resources to sup- port 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.