Their Time Has Come: Youth with Disabilities Entering Adulthood

Their Time Has Come: Youth with Disabilities Entering Adulthood

Their Time Has Come: Youth with Disabilities Entering Adulthood

Their Time Has Come: Youth with Disabilities Entering Adulthood


The lives of youth with disabilities have changed radically in the past fifty years. Youth who are coming of age right now are the first generation to receive educational services throughout childhood and adolescence. Disability policies have opened up opportunities to youth, and they have responded by getting higher levels of education than ever before. Yet many youth are being left behind, compared to their peers without disabilities. Youth with disabilities often still face major obstacles to independence.

In Their Time Has Come, Valerie Leiter argues that there are crucial missing links between federal disability policies and the lives of young people. Youth and their parents struggle to gather information about the resources that disability policies have created, and youth are not typically prepared to use their disability rights effectively. Her argument is based on thorough examination of federal disability policy and interviews with young people with disabilities, their parents, and rehabilitation professionals. Attention is given to the diversity of expectations, the resources available to them, and the impact of federal policy and public and private attitudes on their transition to adulthood.


The current generation of youths with disabilities who are coming of age in the United States is the first to benefit from a wide range of disability programs and policies, from birth to adulthood. In the past fifty years, multiple federal disability policies have been created with the goal of increasing opportunities for individuals with disabilities. These changes in disability policy have been profound, as two profiles of high school students illustrate.

Youth Profiles: Frankie and Kayla

Frankie: College Bound

An extroverted and articulate junior attending his local public high school, Frankie described himself as “a musical theater fanatic” who hoped to pursue his “dream in New York.” Frankie attended occasional productions in New York City with family, listened to recordings in his free time, and participated on- and offstage in community theater productions. His intense involvement in musical theater meant that he had a large number of friends and acquaintances who shared his passion. He kept up with these people in person and through Facebook. A consummate social networker, “very much a people person,” Frankie had even made online contact with a director in New York City. He was working on getting his driver’s license, with advice and training from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC).

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