Saturday 20 October 2012

Transition Planning for Your Child with Special Needs: Ten Top Tips

I'm sitting in Langley, British Columbia, and when I look out my hotel window, I see the skyline punctuated with the tips of pine trees.  Mountains are snow-capped in the background.  I'm here for the "Family Focus Conference" of the Langley Association for Community Living and I spoke this morning on the theme of the event - "Life in Abundance: Harvesting the Wisdom of Families".

My home of Ottawa is far away, so I'm staying an extra few days to see old friends and to do another event on Monday evening for families interested in learning more about Tyze Personal Support Networks.

After my keynote address, I wandered in and out of smaller conference rooms, each with a presenter speaking on such topics as "Individualized Funding" and "Home Adaptations for Independence".  But one topic especially caught my eye.  It was titled "Leaving High School - What Next?"  Every parent of a child with disabilities knows that life after 18 feels like a bottomless pit.  Many therapeutic, educational and social services available for children suddenly come to a crashing halt after age 18.  Couple a cessation of services with school graduation leading to days at home without structure or meaningful work and the result is often despair.

Governments at every level, advocacy groups and families all have transition planning at the top of the agenda.  All are struggling with developing a model of support for young adults with disabilities and better planning to prevent crises in their lives.

I found inspiration and practical solutions in the presentation on future planning given by representatives from the Family Support Institute of British Columbia.  You don't have to live in this province or even in this country to find these suggestions for planning helpful.  This is list, modified, applies to seniors transitioning into supported living circumstances as well.  Good planning is the key to ease of mind and smooth transition.

1)  Plan early to develop a transition plan.  Start 3-4 years before your son or daughter turns 18.

2)  Learn about person centered planning, transition planning and related supports and services (a google of those terms and your city name should reveal where to look).

3)  Begin the transition process by establishing a transition team and selecting a coordinator (this team consists of the core group of professionals who are most helpful in your child's life and key person(s) from the school.  Plus key family members, of course.

4)  Learn about assessments that may be needed (such as psychological assessments for cognitive disability that may be required to access adult funding supports).

5)  Ensure that your son or daughter has legal documentation for identification (Social Insurance No., Personal Health Number, government issued ID, birth certificate or whatever other legal documents may be relevant to your country) and learn about consent process.

6)  Begin to develop a plan for adulthood which addresses health care needs, on-going learning (education), employment options and having a home (talk about these issues at length with your child before meeting with professionals)

7)  Develop financial literacy skills to increase the youth's ability to manage financial assets

8)  Consider long term financial tools that will support the youth as an adult (e.g. Registered Disability Savings Plan - RDSP in Canada, Registered Education Savings Plans, trust funds) - if these are not in place, learn about and apply for such tools.

9)  Engage in intentional social network development to build connections for the future.

10)  Keep copies of all documentation and completed reports.

These tips are taken from a document titled "Appendix C: Roles and Tasks Timeline for Transition Planning Team Members"

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