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support-systemAs we move into 2013, it’s a good time to look forward into our children’s futures beyond young childhood. Although many of us are in the trenches of IEP meetings, triennials and advocacy for additional support or therapy for our young children, it is important to begin thinking about starting a file or binder with your child’s pending adulthood in mind.

Depending on where you are in this journey, will determine how many steps you should make and how quickly you should either be tip-toeing or sprinting in those steps. As children progress in age, you may find that your child is very gifted in one area, but needs more support in another. Or, you may decide that academic goals are not as important for your child as more functional goals such as independence in grooming, toileting or basic living skills. Whatever your child’s strengths or challenges, looking forward to their future might be a daunting task. Having encouraging support systems available to help you navigate this task will be beneficial.

Below, I present five support systems to help your child transition to adulthood.

IEP & Adult Transition Team

Your child’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP) team will be active in working with you throughout the years.

  • As your child progresses to the late teens, IEP meetings should proceed to Adult Transition topics where you begin discussing options for education and/or programs available for your child after high school.
  • At this time, your Regional Center Representative should be attending these meetings as part of the team.

Regional Center Representative

  • Contact your local Regional Center to connect with your child’s representative. This person should meet your child in your home or school setting to get to know your child to help guide you with future options. These representatives do change jobs occasionally; so don’t be discouraged if your child’s representative changes. Just keep in touch and utilize the services (including respite care, if appropriate) they offer.

Parent Support Groups

  • If you are not already part of a parent support group in your local area, this is highly recommended. If you have groups available for parents who have children with the same “isms” as your child, that might prove helpful as you advocate or seek support during your child’s transition to adulthood. They might have suggestions for schooling, programs or housing alternatives.

Mentors, Advocates and Support for Self-Advocacy

  • Your child might already have an advocate as you journeyed through his childhood. If so, this person might be helpful in this transition as well. Mentors (in the form of teachers, pastors, scout leaders, bosses, etc.) might prove to be of great help in seeking out jobs or applying for programs or colleges. You might even have a child who is ready to advocate for himself. Encourage this step toward independence.

Counselors

  • Whether your child is transitioning to college, vocational training or a day program, counselors might be of great help in connecting you with additional resources. If your child has his/her eyes’ set on going to a specific college, see if that college has a department which offers specific support for those with special needs or disabilities. As a bonus, this connection might even lead you to additional scholarship possibilities.

Even though each child and each family is unique, there is no need to travel on this journey alone and without useful support. Start your child’s Adult Transition binder this year by jotting down a few notes and ideas of what might make this journey a little easier in the future. Good luck!