Becoming an adult: your child with additional needs

Leaving school and becoming an adult are big changes for your child with additional needs, so the transition to adulthood needs careful planning.

It’s a good idea to start planning early in the secondary school years. This will give you plenty of time to work on the skills your child needs to achieve his goals for adulthood. It will also give you time to find out about the supports your child will need, depending on what he wants to do.

Creating a transition plan for adulthood for your child with additional needs

Creating a transition plan for your child with additional needs is a good way to prepare her for adulthood.

When you’re developing your child’s transition plan, you’ll need to think about your child’s:

  • short-term and long-term goals for the future
  • strengths, abilities, skills and interests and how to develop and support them
  • needs and how to make sure these needs are met.

It’s useful to start by writing down your child’s current skills and abilities. You can compare these with the skills and abilities that your child needs to meet his goals. This can help you decide which skills your child needs to learn, practise or improve on and where your child might need support.

You can gather information to create a well-rounded and thorough plan by talking with and including input from people who are significant to your child. These people might include teachers, support staff, therapists, siblings, relatives and friends.

Each child’s transition plan will be different, but all transition plans should cover:

  • education
  • work
  • independent living
  • social interaction and community involvement.
Change can be stressful for some teenagers with additional needs. It can help to think about how your child has coped with transitions in the past. Think about the strategies and supports that have worked well for your child. For example, it might help to talk with her about the transition plan, use visual aids as part of the planning process, or create mind maps.

Transition plan: further education

If your child is in Year 8 or above and his school hasn’t started developing a transition plan with you, talk to your child’s teacher about starting the process. As part of the transition plan, the school will look at your child’s goals and interests to help him choose what subjects to study.

Further education
If your child is interested in further education, her options might include university, TAFE or vocational education and training.

If your child wants to go to university, the Australian Government helps university students with disability through the Higher Education Disability Support Program. It’s also important to talk to individual training providers, TAFEs and universities about their disability services.

And in all further education institutions, your child with additional needs has the same education rights as other students. This means that the further education provider must make reasonable adjustments to make sure your child has the same opportunities as other students to take part in the provider’s programs. Your child’s transition plan should include any adjustments that he needs.

Transition plan: work

If your child wants to get a job, you could consider what sorts of jobs might suit her interests and abilities and how she could use her strengths in the workforce. For example, if your child loves animals and is good with them, she might be able to get a job as a veterinary assistant or dog walker.

Volunteer and paid work in the teenage years can help you and your child work out whether your child’s interests can be turned into longer-term employment goals.

Many schools work in partnership with the vocational education and training sector and registered training organisations to organise work experience, traineeships or apprenticeships.

Job Access has information and advice on the employment of people with disability. This includes Disability Employment Services, which helps people with disability find a job. You can also get information on workplace modifications and flexible working arrangements.

Transition plan: independent living

Young people with additional needs can live independently in many ways. For example, they might be able to live a fully independent life, live in a group home, or live in supported accommodation.

Your child’s transition plan should include his goals for independent living. It should also cover the skills your child needs to live independently. These might include self-care skills, like cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, shopping, managing his time, using public transport, and managing finances.

If your child needs to stay living at home, now is a good time to think about the long term. For example, who will look after her if something happens to you in the future? This can also be a good time to review your options for financial planning, wills and trusts.

Transition plan: social interaction and community involvement

Your child’s transition plan should include ideas for keeping friendships going, meeting new people and taking part in social and community activities like going to the cinema or an exercise class. These sorts of activities can help young adults feel connected to their local communities.

Your child might be keen to carry on with social, recreational or community activities that he enjoys at school. He might also be keen to try something new.

As part of your planning, it’s a good idea to look into services for adults with additional needs in your area. There might be services that help with routine activities, like grocery shopping, or groups that organise social outings, like going to see a movie with other adults.

Your state autism association, disability service or local council will be able to tell you about services in your area.

Your child might also need to plan for the move to the adult health care system. Our article explains the process, what to expect and how to help your child make the move.

Reviewing and monitoring your child’s transition plan

Despite your best efforts, you can’t plan for everything. Your child’s goals might change, or she might learn skills more quickly or more slowly than you expected. This is why it’s important to regularly review your child’s transition plan. You might do this every six months in secondary school, and more often shortly before and after the transition.

An important part of reviewing the plan is talking with school staff and other professionals involved in your child’s care to see how your child is going. For example, is he struggling in any areas? Are there areas that he’s going really well in? This will help you think about how you might need to adjust the goals and strategies in your child’s plan.

Involving your child in the review process is a good idea. Talking with your child about her plan will help you understand how she thinks she’s going, whether her goals have changed, and what supports she thinks she might need.

You can also involve your child in the transition process by motivating him to keep track of how he’s going. For example, you could use visual reminders of the short-term goals and praise your child for small steps towards them.

Funding support for your child’s transition to adulthood

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a national system that funds support services for children and adults with permanent and significant disability. If you live in an area where NDIS is operating and your child meets the requirements to access the NDIS, you’ll work with an NDIA planner or an NDIS local area coordination partner to draw up an individualised NDIS plan for your child.

There’s likely to be a lot of overlap between your child’s NDIS plan and transition plan.

The NDIS can provide funding for supports to help your child meet her goals. This might include:

  • support to learn independent living skills, like money and household management
  • support for daily living activities, like getting dressed and showering
  • transport so that your child can take part in community or social activities, or go to university
  • help at home with tasks like laundry and cleaning
  • home modifications.