A Step-by-Step Guide for Transition Planning for Youth with Abilities

Transitions and changes are a natural part of life. Young people transition from grade to grade, elementary school to middle school, and school to adult life. For youth with disabilities, these milestones can sometimes be incredibly difficult — particularly autism spectrum disorders, which tend to love routine and processes.

Having a plan helps make these transitions — large and small — easier for your child and everyone around them. Transition planning for youth with disabilities in Little Rock often involves input from families, schools, healthcare professionals, and (when possible) the youth themselves. Having a support network to help ease times of transition is crucial for many children who require treatment for intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Your role as part of her support system is to encourage her to develop self-advocacy, independent living, and career skills. 

Families play an important role in helping their child achieve success after high school. This is even more true for those with special needs or undergoing treatment for autism. Make sure you are prepared with the best ways to provide support while teaching your youth the skills she needs to live independently.

1. Support and Amplify Your Youth’s Voice

When youths leave school, they are often expected to take the lead and become a self-advocate for their needs. This may include:

  • modifications in college, at work, or in a transition program; 
  • developing strategies and skills for living alone; or 
  • taking over responsibility for their doctor’s appointments and medications.

This can be difficult for many youths with intellectual or developmental disabilities — especially if they received a lot of support from their families and school systems previously. Equipping them with communication tools, keeping an open line of communication, and encouraging them to set their own goals is vital to their success. 

To help him get started, encourage your child to express his opinions. Let him know it is okay to ask for help when he needs it. Provide him with materials created for and by others with the same special needs or abilities. 

Empower your youth by deepening his understanding of his disability. Discuss his diagnosis openly, honestly, and without embarrassment or fear. Ask him to voice how his disability affects them. How does he feel in new and stressful situations, and how does he think he could solve that? Encourage critical and creative thinking. 

Support your youth’s communication strengths.  If he does better with a plan, have him write down what he plans to say before an important conversation. If your child is uncomfortable with confrontation, work on developing stress-relief techniques for tense situations.

Provide opportunities for your child to set and achieve goals at home or in the community. For example, he can write out one to three goals at the beginning of each semester and plot out the actions he needs to take to succeed. 

Make sure he is actively participating in IEP meetings. Gradually turn over control until he basically runs the meetings himself. This improves confidence and empowers him to be a self-advocate.  

2. Assume Confidence and Success

Your child’s confidence is directly influenced by her family’s perceptions of her abilities. Making life as easy as possible and stepping in when your child is struggling is tempting (and certainly there are appropriate moments for this). However, for your child to become a successful adult, you have to set high expectations for her and allow her to struggle and achieve. 

Assume your child is completely competent and work from that assumption. If she says “I can’t do it!” in moments of frustration, ask her why she feels like that. Reasoning through her frustration helps her find a solution or modification. 

This does not mean you should ignore impairments or challenges. We are simply suggesting your youth knows herself better than you may realize. Acknowledging this and believing in her is a transition every parent must make — regardless of the child’s abilities — as their youth grows into an adult. 

Here are some ways you can presume confidence:

Believe It: Believe your child will succeed at work/school/whatever she does post-transition. Believe it and communicate your belief to your youth frequently. 

Train Up: Have academic and/or functional skills added to your youth’s IEP as needed. Reading, writing, math, technology, or communication skills —  make sure she has access to whatever tools she may need to succeed. 

Work At Home: Give your youth responsibilities at home, thereby providing her with the opportunity to improve her skills. Have her make meals, do laundry, schedule a doctor’s appointment, or whatever else you do for her that she can reasonably take on herself.

Communicate With Your Team: Let school staff, care providers, medical professionals — everyone on your youth’s support team — know exactly what you are trying to accomplish, and encourage them to act with you.

Plan Together: Figure out what support is available to your child post-transition. Does she qualify for home- and community-based services in Little Rock? Are there federal, state, or local programs offering support groups, transportation help, extra care, or check-in services? Sit down with your youth and talk to her about available services, what she is comfortable with, and how you can take advantage of any opportunities to support her. 

3. Provide Opportunities to Practice Independence

To develop the necessary skills for living alone or entering the work environment, your youth needs to practice. Some things you can only learn by doing, so make sure you begin preparing your youth well ahead of time. Encourage him to volunteer or get a part-time job. Take advantage of any school programs allowing your child to experience responsibility in a structured environment. 

Pop Quiz: At home and out in the community, point out potential situations or issues that may arise once he makes his transition. Encourage him to explain how he would deal with these situations and explore possible solutions for different problems. 

Learn By Doing: Allow your youth to work or volunteer anytime the opportunity arises in both individual and team-driven environments.

At home, have him measure ingredients and cook simple meals, complete household chores, help you balance the checkbook and pay bills, and budget for transportation and meal costs.

As he practices and his confidence grows, remember there are still allowances made for his needs. Allow extra time, multiple attempts, or modifications to tasks before you decide he cannot do something. Empower him to ask for help and be honest about how he is struggling. This will help him self-advocate in the future.

Take advantage of independent-living training offered through Pre-ETS, their school, or extracurricular activities. 

More Information About Transition Planning for Youth with Disabilities in Little Rock

If you need help with transition planning for youth with disabilities in Little Rock, contact Integrity, Inc. We offer home- and community-based services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. To schedule an appointment, call (501)406-0442 or fill out our form online!

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