Three considerations when planning the transition from high school for young adults with disabilities

Thursday, April 11, 2019

four young women sitting together outsideFinishing public school or a transition program is an important milestone on the way to adulthood, often filled with mixed emotions for both the students and their parents. On the one hand – joy! Pride! Excitement! On the other: anxiety, apprehension and nostalgia for the past. There can be no doubt that life is changing. Planning is the key to maximizing the positive emotions and minimizing the scary ones.

Transition planning for young adults with disabilities often begins in their final years of high school. This process to help the youth move from the world of school to the world of adulthood is guided by federal and state special education law to assure that the right people are involved in the planning efforts. Key players include the youth, their parents, teachers and others with knowledge or expertise regarding the student.

The final transition plan will take into account the youth’s needs as well as their desires for the future, including living options, employment or alternative day services, and waivered services.

Living options. You and your child will want to discuss where they want to live after they complete high school. There are many options to consider, from living at home to living independently, and everything in between. One in-between option is a service called Shared Living, whereby a person with disabilities chooses to live with an Adult Foster Care provider (also called Host Home providers – Lutheran Social Service of MN has many licensed providers ready to support adults with disabilities to become more independent in their daily lives).

This may also be a good time to gather information about guardianship, and to identify a potential guardian for your young adult child. There are many options to discuss, because guardians do not have to be a parent or family member. Attorneys or professional guardians can help you navigate the process.

Employment or alternative day services. Moving to employment after high school is a great option for many young adults with disabilities, allowing them to continue to have a daily structure while giving them the opportunity to earn a wage in the process.  The three types of employment services are Day Training & Habilitation (DT&H) (which is currently being phased out), Supported Employment Services (SES) and Employment First. DT&H programs often include both work and non-work time, including therapeutic services, community activities and skills development opportunities. Supported Employment Services may be either on-site employment or community-based supported employment. And Employment First services help people with disabilities find competitive, integrated employment.

Alternative day services, also called adult day services, provide activities designed to meet the health and social needs of adults with disabilities, including the supports to either maintain or improve their ability to care for them self. 

To help you and your child determine the best option, consider setting up meetings and/or tours of facilities; you may need to register early to be added to waiting lists for future openings.

Waivered services. This transition period is a good time to ask your case manager about in-home waivered services such as PICS’ Personal Supports & Respite to maximize the financial support your child receives. For example, if your child currently uses Consumer Directed Community Supports (CDCS) and their transition plan includes moving to a day program, the cost of the day program will use up a large portion of their budget. Funding for a day program would not need to be included in the funds available for Personal Supports and Respite staffing services.

Although life is changing for you and your child, this period should be filled with more excitement than anxiety. You can find additional resources about planning for this milestone here. And talk with your case manager to help you navigate the process and consider all the appropriate options for the future.