Becoming an adult: teenagers with disability, autism or other additional needs
Leaving school and becoming an adult are big steps for teenagers with disability, autistic teenagers, and teenagers with other additional needs. This means 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 their goals for adulthood. It will also give you time to find out about the supports your child will need, depending on what your child wants to do.
Developing transition plans for teenagers with disability, autism or other additional needs
Transition plans are a good way to prepare teenagers with disability, autistic teenagers, and teenagers with other additional needs for adulthood.
When you’re developing your child’s transition plan, you and your child will need to think about your child’s:
- short-term and long-term goals for the future and how to work towards them
- 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 their goals. This can help you and your child decide which skills your child needs to learn, practise or improve on and where they 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:
- independent living
- social interaction and community involvement.
Change can sometimes be stressful for teenagers with disability, autistic teenagers, and teenagers with other 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 and involve your child in developing their transition plan. For example, talk with your child and get their thoughts on the transition plan, use visual aids as part of the planning process, or create mind maps.
Further education in the transition plan
Further education options include university, TAFE or vocational education and training. If your child is interested in one of these, this should be included in their transition plan. This will help your child choose what subjects to study, especially in senior school.
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 has the same education rights as other students. This means that the further education provider must make reasonable adjustments to ensure 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 they need.
If your child is in Year 8 or above and your child’s school hasn’t started developing a transition plan, talk to school staff about starting the process.
Work in the transition plan
If your child wants to get a job, you could consider what sorts of jobs might suit your child’s interests and abilities and how your child could use their strengths in the workforce. For example, if your child loves animals and is good with them, your child might be able to get a job as a veterinary assistant or dog walker.
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 help people with disability find a job. You can also get information on workplace modifications and flexible working arrangements.
Independent living in the transition plan
Young people with disability, young autistic people, and young people with other additional needs can live independently in different ways. For example, they might be able to live:
- a fully independent life
- in shared accommodation
- in supported independent living accommodation.
Your child’s transition plan should include your child’s 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 time, using public transport, and managing finances.
Social interaction and community involvement in the transition plan
Transition plans should include ideas for keeping friendships going, meeting new people and taking part in social and community activities like going to the cinema or exercise classes. These sorts of activities can build community connections for young people with disability, young autistic people, and young people with other additional needs.
Your child might be keen to carry on with social, recreational or community activities that they enjoy at school. Your child might also want to try something new.
As part of your planning, it’s a good idea to look into local services for adults with disability, autistic adults and adults with other additional needs. 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.
Reviewing and monitoring the transition plan
Your child’s goals might change, or they might learn skills more quickly or more slowly than expected. This is why it’s important to regularly review your child’s transition plan. You might do this every 6 months in secondary school. It’s good to review 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, are there areas that your child is going well in? Is your child struggling in any areas? This will help you think about how to adjust goals and strategies in your child’s plan.
Involving your child in the review process is a good idea. Talking with your child about their plan will help you understand how your child thinks they’re going, whether your child’s goals have changed, and what supports your child thinks they need.
You can also involve your child in the transition process by motivating them to keep track of how they’re going. For example, you could use visual reminders of the short-term goals and praise your child for small steps towards them.
Funding for transition supports for teenagers with disability, autism or other additional needs
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a national system that funds support services for children and adults with permanent and significant disability.
There’s likely to be a lot of overlap between your child’s NDIS plan and their transition plan.
The NDIS can provide funding for supports to help your child meet their 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
- school leaver employment supports in the final year of secondary school
- transport so that your child can take part in community or social activities
- help at home with tasks like laundry and cleaning
- home modifications.