When your child reaches adulthood, that’s when most parents breathe a huge sigh of relief. It means you’ve successfully parented your child with special needs for almost two decades, and deserve a celebration like no other. For most parents, this is the time when jobs, college and apartments become all anyone can talk about, but for a child with special needs this can be a stressful, unsure time full of anxiety and tension.
The most common questions are, “Where will my child live if they leave home? How will they support themselves financially?” This technically applies to all groups of children, but can be nerve-wracking if your child has special needs. Under the age of 18, state services or private groups can provide all the services your child might need during the course of their childhood. This could include occupational or physical therapists, a specialized school environment or consistent medical attention, but these services tend to stop when a child “ages out” of the program – when they become eighteen years old.
You’ve depended on these services for the whole of your child’s life, and the sudden stopping of such aid can leave you feeling like you’re drowning in a sea of confusion on how to handle adulthood. That’s where transitional services come into play, and can help your child learn to be self-sufficient. If your child’s disability is too severe for them to live on their own without constant care and assistance, there are still services that can help you when your child becomes an adult.
How Transitional Services Work
Before your child turns eighteen and is no longer eligible for childhood services, it’s time to start looking into what sort of transitional programs will be available for your child once they reach adulthood. A good place to start would be with the agencies that are currently working with your child, such as occupational, physical or mental therapy or specialized services unique to your child alone.
Surprisingly enough, a child’s transition into adulthood starts to become addressed in school through an Individualized Education Plan at around age sixteen. This helps children, parents and educators decide on clearly defined goals and problem areas that should be worked on through the rest of the child’s school career. If your child is not currently receiving special education services but you feel they need assistance in preparing for life after school, it’s a good idea to speak with your child’s school officials first to see if they have resources for your child to partake in.
One of the biggest challenges parents face when their children with special needs become adults is how to decide which options are best for them in the “real” world outside of school. It can be difficult to answer questions such as, “Where will they live without me?” or “How will they support themselves financially?” In this case, it’s best to seek services from self-sufficiency services. These programs are geared towards teaching young adults the basics of life such as job searching, opening a bank account or basic kitchen skills for food preparation. Designed to maximize a child’s potential while considering their unique limitations, no matter what they might be, this type of transitional service can work wonders for your child’s confidence and self-esteem.
While gathering all the information necessary to help your child with special needs transition into adulthood, remember to set clear and definable goals that you both feel can be met and agreed upon. Sending a young adult with special needs into the world without the proper resources will more often than not have negative consequences that can set development back a little. The goal of adulthood is to live successfully in whatever means possible, and you can help your child forge a new path with limited assistance.
Basic Tips On Finding And Using Transitional Services
• Ask the school for assistance or resources
• Check with your child’s private or state insurance
• Search online for local services
• Ask other parents who have children with special needs about their experience with adulthood transitioning
Check with your local family support service to see if your state offers Vocational Rehabilitation services. This program provides educational job training and assistance to those with disabilities who might not be able to obtain suitable employment on their own. They work with clients affected by physical or emotional limitations to create an individualized treatment plan and clear, definable goals.
The most important thing to remember is that this transition is a learning experience for both you and your child, and might cause some initial frustration, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Reassure your child that they are able to succeed on their own and work closely with professional transitional services to predict specific circumstances and modify the environment, if necessary. It might take some trial and error to find the right combination of assistance for your child, so starting early is the best course of action. Involve your child every step of the way to ensure they are aware of the future choices that will impact their adult life. Empowering your child by giving them a voice in their choices can boost self-confidence by untold amounts.
Alternatively, we at Special Education Resource provide resources that can help you make informed decisions regarding your child’s education and transition into adulthood. Additionally, we offer special education tutoring services for children of all ages AND adults with special needs. The more you know, the better you can handle your child’s special needs as they transition into a new way of life. You’ve gotten this far – welcome to the next chapter! Don your superhero cape, fight through the obstacles that might stand in your child’s way, and introduce them into their brand new world. This is simply a new beginning for your child, and can lead to a bright, beautiful future full of hope and possibility.