Gone are the days of low expectations for those with special needs. Today’s teens with diverse abilities have bright futures ahead of them that include finding fulfilling employment, attending college or tech school and living independently.

Start planning early

Around the ages of 14 to 16, it’s important for students to start thinking about and planning for their future. Preparing for life after high school is a team effort that includes the student, his or her parents and family, teachers and school staff.

By the age of 16, each student’s Individual Education Plan, or IEP, will include a plan for transition services to help move them from school to the adult world. The plan will include ideas for work, secondary education, adult and community resources that can offer assistance and a strategy for independent living. Students should be encouraged to:

  • Participate in or even lead their IEP meetings.
  • Start thinking about their interests, strengths, things they like to do and needs they have. What do they dream of doing or being one day?
  • Take classes in high school that match with diploma requirements and their career interests.
  • Participate in activities at school and in their community that will help develop needed skills.
  • Explore the use of assistive devices, mobile technology, environmental supports and accommodations to help them be more independent.
  • Talk to other young people that have successfully transitioned from school to work or college.
  • Learn how to talk about their strengths and their disability. Learn how to ask for accommodations and tell others how to support them best.
  • Develop job skills by participating in paid or unpaid school and summer work experiences.

It’s never too early to begin planning for the future. We recommend starting as early as 14 so teens have lots of time to figure out where they want to go in life and take the necessary steps to get there.

Check out the HDESD Transition Network website and Planning my way to work – a transition guide for students with disabilities leaving high school for more tips and information.