Like so many youth, youth with disabilities must face the reality of planning for the future when they reach the age of transitioning out of the school system. Questions about their likes and dislikes, deciding on a new career path or whether to go to college, and learning to live away from home are just some of the many questions young adults struggle with trying to figure out. But youth with disabilities must face not only those questions but countless others as they learn how to become self-advocates, determine their level of independence, and begin to set boundaries for their personal and professional path.
Several organizations are dedicated to helping youth and their families make this transition as smooth as possible. The PACER Center, which stands for Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights, located in Minnesota, has been helping youth with disabilities and their families since 1977 expand opportunities and quality of life. While they provide a wide variety of services, the PACER Center helps families work through tough decisions about education and other life decisions for their youth with a disability. Some ways they help include providing resources and informing families about educational and work opportunities after high school, offering assistive technology devices, and referring parents to options for independent living and housing opportunities for young adults.
Many communities have independent living organizations which allow families to talk to qualified professionals to find housing options to fit their child’s needs as they transition into adulthood. These organizations can also help you determine if independent living is an option for your child and provide resources about home health aides, accessibility, and group or alternative living arrangements for young people.
While there is a wealth of information, resources, and organizations available to help families work through their options as a child with a disability makes the transition to young adulthood, it is important to remember that no one knows your child better than you. It is also necessary for the parents and families to transition to a new role as a child with a disability grows into an adult with a disability. Remember, no one knows an individual and their needs better than himself or herself. Know that many young adults need to try different things and possibly fail before they find what works for them. Staying informed, keeping an open mind, and taking advantage of resources in your community can allow for the smoothest transition for both family and individuals looking for their independence as a young adult.
What tips do you have for individuals or families transitioning from childhood to adulthood? Share your own transition story in the comments!