Transition Planning: Is Independence in My Child’s Future?


My Child is Growing Up! What Can I Do to Prepare for the Future?

Yes, children with disabilities do grow up. IEP teams are required to begin the transition planning process in early adolescence. While we might focus on academic skills, it’s important to look at behavior, routines, and social skills. Sometimes we enjoy (or grow accustomed to) the interests, behaviors, and quirks that our child has. Sometimes we forget that they, too, will grow bigger and older, and some behaviors can stand in his or her way of being accepted by peers, getting a job, or having independence.Schools focus on academic skills due to pressures of standardized testing. At the same time, self advocacy and social skills are equally important in employment, social settings, and family life. Eventually, he or she will need to interact with a roommate, co-workers, and friends. Let’s get more specific with a few concrete examples.

Sample questions to consider when planning for independent living:

  • Does my child hug everyone without checking to see if a hug is okay?
  • Does my child order his or her own meals in restaurants?
  • Is my child a guest in our home or an equal member of the family with responsibilities that increase each year?
  • Is there some other behavior that will not look ‘cute’ in 10 years?

You may be thinking now, “Okay, as a parent, I get it. I realize that my child is getting older and I need to raise the bar so that he (or she) can get a job and have as much independence as possible. But how? It’s a struggle to get through the day most days.” Glad you asked.

Routines are hard to break, and it’s sometimes difficult to know when your child might be ready to be more flexible. Some habits will always be a part of your child’s repertoire as a calming technique or as a way to cope with sensitivities. Only you and your child know the difference between what is necessary and what new challenges might be considered. Seek out other parents or experts for guidance on this if you are not sure.

Steps in making relatively low-stress changes:

  1. Write a social story or a script about the behavior that you want to see. (It’s important that this be in writing and pictures rather than a conversation. See the links below regarding social stories and a couple of smartphone apps for more ideas.)
  2. Start talking about the change ahead of time and schedule a day when you can agree that the new behavior will start. Reread the social story as often as needed to integrate the concept, reviewing periodically.
  3. When you see an effort, celebrate in a way that your child or young adult will appreciate. A step in the right direction is just fine; we are not after perfection.

With a relaxed and positive approach, yes, your child can learn more mature behavior with less stress than it first seemed possible. Let us know how you’re doing.

Smart Steps LLC (c) 2013