Each year around this time, students across the country turn their tassels and toss their caps to celebrate graduation. But just as the caps fly upward in celebration, they must come down. Once caps land on the ground, there comes a realization among many students that their future is uncertain.

This uncertainty is especially present among students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students with IDDare more likely than their peers to lack job training and to drop out before reaching high school graduation. Teachers and parents can help shift this by having high expectations for students with IDDs.

As is true for all young adults, high expectations help to drive students to achieve high results. So what are appropriate expectations for students with IDDs?


1. Assist in finding paid work experience during high school

During their time in school, students should accrue a record of paid work experience; it will make their post-education job search far less daunting if they have worked in one or more paid positions in high school.


2. Expect future financial independence

Students with IDDs should be expected to leave school prepared for jobs that will help them achieve a level of economic self-sufficiency and autonomy. Just like any other student, the expectation for graduating students with IDDs should be for them to eventually gain income.


3. Encourage vigorous pursuit of employment

Students with disabilities — particularly those with significant disabilities — should expect that, with proper care and support, they can reach integrated employment in a paid position.


4. Facilitate planning for independent adulthood

Let students with IDDs set goals for themselves. Rather than planning their future for them, allow students to plan their future for themselves. This can go a long way toward cultivating their sense of independence and self-sufficiency when they enter the workforce.


5. Ensure transition planning includes distant future

Transition planning for students near graduation should extend well beyond their 21st birthday. Detailed and copious transition planning for multiple stages of the transition toward full adulthood and autonomy help to increase the likelihood of success in the transition to self-sufficiency and full participation in society.

Students with IDDs, like all students, need help planning for the future beyond education. With care, guidance and belief in a student’s abilities, they can thrive in the transition between childhood and adulthood, between dependence and independence.