December 28, 2015

adults with disabilitiesPlanning for the “Cliff”

For many teens, the transition to adulthood will begin as they graduate from high school and move onto college or their first job. It’s a time of great excitement and a big milestone in a young person’s life. For those with developmental disabilities and their families, this transition is an even more immense and monumental milestone in their lives. Not only are they experiencing similar feelings of excitement and anxiousness, but they are also embarking on a change that will transform the services and support they have come to expect, as well as their relationships and social involvement.

Commonly referred to as the “cliff,” for a child with a disability, moving into this next phase of life may come with many impacts. Over the years, many individuals and their families have shared their stories of feeling as though they had been dropped off a cliff once they reached adulthood. From the potential loss of long-term relationships with school friends to difficulties finding ways to be involved socially or leisurely, these changes can affect a young person’s self-confidence and self-esteem. No different than their counterparts without disabilities, these young individuals with disabilities have similar aspirations but are faced with more obstacles during the transition to adult life.

In addition, this coming of age milestone will take them from guaranteed disability and special education services to merely being eligible without any assurances of continuing to receive these much needed services. Sadly, once a child reaches age 21 or graduates from high school, they move into the adult disability system where availability of these services is based on state funding. Many of these young people will end up on waiting lists.

It can easily become an emotionally demanding and stressful time. However, there are things that can be done in preparation of this transitional time to help make it a more positive experience.

Start Planning for the “Cliff” Early

Experts agree and found in a number of studies performed that planning should begin at an early age. It may be difficult for you as a parent to envision your young child as a blossoming adult, but the time will come, and it is best to be prepared!

Start with daily living skills such as housekeeping, cooking, personal hygiene routines, relationship skills, managing money, and using public transportation. Encourage your child to explore and think about their interests and preferences at a young age, with a focus towards identifying future employment opportunities. Volunteer work and school clubs can be a great way for children to cultivate their interests while also developing abilities for future use, socially and occupationally. These activities will also help promote self-advocacy in your child.

While planning is not a guarantee of success, the payoff for learning these skills is typically high, and those with better daily living skills are generally more independent in their daily lives, jobs and educational activities. Please contact us for all of your developmental needs!