Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Tackling the Transition: How Do You Prepare Your Child (and You!) for His or Her Foray into the Adult World?

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Tackling the Transition: How Do You Prepare Your Child (and You!) for His or Her Foray into the Adult World?

Article excerpt

Programs like the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities (WRP) and Pathways Programs for Students and Recent Graduates offer cutting-edge internships and jobs. State and federal governments also provide funding for work preparation and employment experiences for youth with disabilities.

When your child is born, you envision the various stages of his or her life: a carefree childhood; a trying, but rewarding adolescence; capped off with a successful, independent adulthood. Everything you do as a parent prepares for and contributes to these stages in some way. Despite your best efforts and intentions, the process is inevitably rife with challenges. One of the biggest challenges--especially for caregivers of children with special healthcare needs--is the transition from youth to adulthood.

In fact, only 40% of youth with special healthcare needs in the U.S. receive the services necessary to make transitions to adult healthcare, work, and independence. This proportion is even lower among youth who are Hispanic or Black, with family incomes below 200% of poverty, and who are uninsured or publicly insured. In addition, males are less likely than females to transition successfully. (1)

What does it take to be prepared? It requires that you and your child stay informed, be proactive, and communicate with one another. Support for your child from you, your family, friends, and organizations sympathetic to your needs will also help facilitate the change.

You probably have dozens of questions about how to plan for this important time. Frankly, we'd be worried if you didn't! By confronting the issues early and directly, you will be able to better prepare your child for his or her journey into adulthood and prepare yourself for your new role.

WHO should be involved in the transition process?

Your child and you will be the ultimately decision makers regarding his or her transition, but there are myriad people who may be part of the process. These include your child's health-care providers--primary care provider and specialists, pediatrician and adult care provider if one has been identified, home health nurses, mental health providers, and anyone else involved in the provision of healthcare for your child--plus teachers and employers, as well as relatives, friends, and others who participate in your child's day-to-day life and activities.

WHEN should I expect the transition to occur, and when do I begin to prepare?

Transition to adulthood is a gradual process, which every young adult handles in his or her own way. Many parents find that much of the transition process occurs between ages 14 and 22, but because every child has his or her own needs, the process may start earlier or continue longer than that timeframe. In the school setting, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA) requires that transition goals are specified as part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) when a child with special healthcare needs is 16 years old (14 years old if you live in Massachusetts). (2) The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you begin to pre-pare your child for transition even earlier, sometime between the ages of 12 and 14. Transition to adulthood is a significant event, but the transitions to middle and high school can also be complicated. It never hurts to be prepared, so as your child reaches one developmental milestone, start and continue to plan for the next ones. (3)


WHAT transitions lie ahead?

With change come new responsibilities. EDUCATION: School is where young people spend a lot of their time, learn habits and develop work ethics, skills, and expectations for their futures. (4) If your child is still in junior high or high school, he or she may need certain support and accommodations in school. If your child requires special education, then these special care needs are documented through the Individualized Education Program (IEP). …

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