What will your child do when the school bus stops coming to your house? Will she be able to work or continue her education? What will happen when you are not here? Will he be able to live on his own? These questions can be very overwhelming.
School districts usually start the transition process at about age 14. Some parents and students are better prepared than others. Why? Does it have to do with the student’s level of functioning? Or, does it have to do with the fact that some families and students have ideas or plans about what their child will be doing once they graduate? The transition to adulthood should be very individualized and focused on the child’s strengths. We should identify some weaknesses to work on for the future as well.
Under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), eligible students are entitled to receive services through the end of the school year in which they reach their 22nd birthday. An 18+ program allows eligible students to continue learning without having to stay on a high school campus. However, more and more students are meeting their graduation requirements alongside their peers without disabilities and graduating at age 18 or 19. Is this because they have clear post-secondary goals that they have been working toward? Or is this because some school districts do not have an 18+ program for eligible students?
The answer to each of these questions is different from one student to another. This is why it is so important that parents and students start having conversations about life after high school before they enter middle school. The Transition to Adulthood section of this website provides the information you need to get started on this process.
How many students, with or without a disability, know what their future will be when they are 12 or 13 years old? It is the perfect age to start exploring the possibilities by asking questions. When you are out and about, look at environments that your child enjoys. If your child is on the path to graduate with an accredited high school diploma then perhaps the plan should be college! But if your child is on the path to graduate with a certificate of completion, the plans should be different. Whether your child will attend college, vocational school, begin working or has other plans, they should be involved in the planning and it should be guided by their interests and strengths.
Some of the questions that you can start asking are: “Would you like to work in this store?” “Would you like to work where there are lots of people or would you prefer working in a quieter environment?” “What kind of supports will you need to obtain the job that you would like to have?”
Connecting to agencies such as Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) is crucial during the transition process. This agency can help your child identify and explore options for employment or additional training if it is needed. If your child already has a Medicaid waiver program, other supports can be provided to ensure that your child is on the path to a meaningful and productive life.