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Quick Tips to Transition From High School to Adulthood

Transitioning from high school to adulthood is a momentous chapter for any teen, but the journey for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) poses many challenges. If the teen has the right preparation and support, he or she can navigate the day-to-day responsibilities and the transition can be fulfilling.

One of the most important tips is that as he or she becomes an adult by age that they are treated as an adult and not as a child, even if their mental capacity and mannerisms show otherwise. Give them opportunities to build their community by mingling with adults with or without disabilities, advocate for themselves and make independent decisions.

Speak with the teen to gauge career interests and develop a plan that can be monitored and reassessed as needed. For instance, he or she may have an interest in being a librarian, so the plan can include volunteering during the school day to help in the library. Or volunteering at the public library on the weekends. Or, he or she may express an interest in working with animals, so contacting the local pet store or veterinarian office to see about volunteer opportunities. Volunteering gives the teen an avenue to create a consistent routine, work with all types of people and gain knowledge of the inner workings of a potential career which can help with deciding the correct path to take post graduation. The same conversation can include what they like to do for fun so they can meet peers and create their own community.

Promoting independence even if the teen does tasks slower than normal. The more patience and support they receive while doing things for themselves, the more they’re willing to do them which will increase their confidence and independence. Another thing to quickly note is that sexual desires may arise just as people without disabilities so don’t shut out those conversations. Don’t judge and always respect moments needed for privacy.

Self-advocacy is pivotal. Teens with disabilities should be equipped with an understanding of their rights and the laws. This could mean learning how to communicate the particulars about their disability and/or requesting legal accommodations at their jobs or residences under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which offers protections from discrimination in employment, education and public settings or programs. Also, the teen advocating how he or she wants their disability to be addressed or identified as. Typically, it is offensive to be identified by the disability versus stating the person’s name who has a disability.

Transitioning into adulthood for teens with disabilities is a process that takes one step at a time. Building a community of supportive friends, family, professionals and a plethora of resources is invaluable. Life is going to be hard at times for everyone but for teens with disabilities, self-advocating includes acknowledging the wins in their independence, growth and consistency.

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