Ages 14-21: Overview

As challenging as it’s been to navigate the educational system throughout the past several years, you’ve probably gotten used to the fact that your child has activities, supervision and services during the day. As hard as it is to accept or acknowledge, this will not be the case when your child enters adulthood.

With the exception of some basic services, which your child may be entitled to receive based on his or her income after age 18, your child faces long waiting lists for adult services. Do not delay in learning everything you can about the road ahead.

The main opportunities during these transition years point to employment; independent living skills; and advocacy.

Transition Planning

Regardless of disability, there are opportunities and expectations for your child to work and participate fully in your community. Your own advocacy, as well as your child’s self-advocacy, will be essential to maximizing and developing these and other resources.

Like any successful journey, planning is everything. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, your child is entitled to receive special education services until age 21. The advantages of taking this path of staying in school include additional training to be job ready and three additional years of education and support. If your son or daughter leaves school at age 18, he or she is not eligible for any potential long-term job support until age 21.

Transition planning should begin as early as possible—preferably at age 14, but at least by age 16. At this time, parents should be asking to have employment goals integrated into your child’s individual educational program. This would be a good time to become actively involved with your student’s IEP transition plan. You may want to contact your county DD office about resources available to connect you to your community now and in the future. Look in the blue pages of your phone book under County Government.

Think of this time as a train to catch rather than a stop along the road. There’s a lot of territory to cover, so be ready to roll. Don’t stand on the tracks waiting for the next ride. When special education services end, many parents feel as though they’ve been run over by a train they didn’t see coming.

It’s a sobering reality, for sure, but there are definite steps to take, resources available, and opportunities for you and your child to hone your advocacy skills.

As your child’s transition plan is developed, be sure that he or she is an integral part of the process. Learning how to speak up, plan and take risks will help your child become more independent and successful after high school.

Identifying career interests and skills is the focus of your child’s transition years, as well as learning independent living skills, such as shopping, cooking, budgeting and using the bus system. Make the most of staff and educators during this time.

Additional services will be available to your child when he or she turns 18, but they are not easy to track down. The good news is that, as an adult, eligibility will be based on their income, not yours.

High School Transition Toolkit

Creating a successful transition to adulthood requires support from a lot of different sources. This four-page High School Transition Toolkit provides:

  • Transition Toolkit Star FormA Star Form to help identify supports to reach a student’s transition goals.
  • Tips for transition planning and goal setting.
  • Transition timeline of things to do from age 14-21.
  • Transition checklist of skills, activities, and services when creating your child’s high school transition plan for his/her IEP.
  • Ways to gain job skills during high school.
  • Resources for post-secondary education.

Available in English and Spanish. Print and electronic format. Click here to order or download your copy.