About the author : Craig Andreoli

Teenage girl with Down syndrome wearing eyeglasses uses laptop to learn online at home.

One in five families in the United States care for children with special needs. The United Disability Services Foundation has identified several barriers many young adults with disabilities encounter when reaching adulthood. These difficulties can include but are not limited to finding employment, seeking accommodations, and engaging in self-advocacy.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  made it a requirement that any student with an Independent Education Plan (IEP) be assisted in developing a transition plan to assist these students when the student turns sixteen.  

A transition plan can help support a successful shift into adulthood.  Just like an IEP, a transition plan should be individualized to the student's particular needs and wants.  Addtitionally, when the educators and school administrators are assisting with making a student's transition plan, the parents should be offering essential support to their child during this process.   When a child turns 16, the parents should be helping their child to think through each of the following:

  • planning their future career,
  • considering their preferred living situation in adulthood, 
  • understanding their rights, and 
  • developing their ability to advocate for themselves. 

From Adolescence to Adulthood: College and Career Readiness

Unless a parent obtains guardianship over their child, when a child turns eighteen, they gain the right to make their own decisions about their education and future.    When a parent becomes the guardian of a child, they remain the primary decision-maker regarding the child's education.  

When making a successful transition plan, the parents should discuss with their child what level of education they want to pursue and what work interests them.  As part of helping your adolescent shape a transition plan, encourage them to reflect on whether they would like to pursue post-secondary education. They may have a particular interest in an alternative path, such as trade school.

What Housing Options Are Available? 

Review the housing options that could best suit your child’s specific needs as they reach adulthood.  While some young adults with disabilities can live on their own, others may benefit from additional support.  When parents are encouraging their child to think about the kind of living arrangement they would like to reside in, the parents should educate themselves in the different options available. 

Keep in mind that if a child lives in someone else’s home and receives Supplemental Security Income(SSI), they need to pay rent to avoid seeing a reduction in their benefits. 

For those who plan to attend college and live on campus, consider whether any accommodations may be necessary. For instance, if a child has an emotional support animal (ESA), they have the right to bring their animal. 

Help Your Child Develop Self-Advocacy Skills 

While outlining goals and plans for the future is an essential component of transition planning, an effective transition plan also encompasses preparing the child to advocate for themselves and ask for necessary accommodations. 

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and gives individuals a right to obtain reasonable accommodations in the workplace. 
  • Under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, federally funded colleges and universities cannot deny admission or otherwise discriminate against students with disabilities and must provide reasonable educational accommodations. 
  • The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination against those with disabilities. Most types of housing cannot deny your child access to housing because of their disability. 

You can help your child practice talking about their disability and requesting accommodations. 

Community Involvement 

As your child matures, they can also access community resources and organizations to interact with peers and obtain support. Consider researching local organizations with your child that provide transition assistance. 

Additional Resources on Transition Services

As you and your child reflect on your child’s goals going forward, consult with Jessica M. Klersy, Esq. by calling 631-686-6500.

About the author : Craig Andreoli