by Kerry Bonney, health information specialist
A successful transition to adulthood begins early. If you have a young child with special healthcare needs, it may seem a bit preposterous to discuss transition to adulthood while he or she is so young. Regardless of the age of your child, however, it is never too early to start preparing for this transition.
Our hope for all of our children is for them to be able to live as independently as possible and for them to have a good quality of life. To that end, there are baby steps in a few key areas that we can take along the way that can help ease our child into adulthood.
1) Education - Beginning as early as age 3, you may find yourself seated in a meeting with the school, discussing a 504 plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for your child. When appropriate your child should attend these case conference meetings. In most cases, by age 10-12, a child will be able to participate and his input should be sought.
Ask questions such as “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and encourage your child to pursue hobbies or interests, which may lead to college opportunities, a job, or a fulfilling hobby.
Most colleges offer post secondary education accommodations. Encourage your child to continue his education, if possible and appropriate. Plan accordingly.
2) Self-advocacy - It is easier for us as caregivers to approach a teacher or healthcare provider, as opposed to allowing the child to voice an issue. And while modeling self-advocacy is important, allow your child to interact with others to obtain what he needs and to speak up for himself. This promotes self-advocacy skills, decision-making skills, and self-esteem. These skills are particularly important in the areas of healthcare and safety.
3) Supports - Encourage your child to participate in clubs, groups, or organizations from an early age. He will learn the value of working with others and realizing goals and discover new interests. These early connections can lead to a fulfilling job or hobby, as well as foster friendships that may be life-long.
4) Independence - Self-care skills, including healthcare needs, learning to ride the bus alone, and checking out items at the library or store can be complex for some children. Break each process that requires multiple steps into small steps for your child and concentrate on working on the skills one at a time. Praise him for his accomplishment as he masters each step.
Focus on strengths and abilities of your child at each age, keeping in mind that the goal for him is to live as independently as possible as an adult. For more tips and an age-specific guide, see this guide from Delaware Family-to-Family: Transition Timeline for Children and Adolescents with Special Healthcare Needs
We also have a youtube video about transition:
Family Voices Indiana offers numerous resources for you and your child to transition successfully. Please contact us if you would like further information regarding transition or assistance with the process. 317 944 8982 firstname.lastname@example.org