Preparing for a Successful Future
Transitioning to independence during young adulthood is a pivotal and challenging time for everyone. For young adults with special needs, these periods can particularly difficult. People with special needs, such as autism spectrum disorders or learning disabilities, may have social and communicative deficits which will impair their ability to advocate for themselves. Adjusting to having fewer and less structured supports is difficult and many teens and young adults are simply unprepared!
According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 1 in 5 people in America have some sort of disability—that’s nearly 50 million people! As the special needs population ages, and children with disabilities begin to transition to adulthood, often the supports and services, to which they have become accustomed, will fade away—leaving them unprepared and under-supported.
In America, only 70.5% of all students graduate from high school with a diploma, while only 56% of students with disabilities graduate! (National Council on Disability, 24th Annual Report to Congress). Once the existing supports that are present in high school (such as smaller class sizes, teachers, and the support of parents while living at home) are no longer accessible, the statistics become even more grim. For example, on average only 50% of students who enter college actually graduate. For students with disabilities, only 8% who enter college complete their coursework and graduate. The growing population of college-bound students with disabilities, may need more support and assistance than is typically provided or available to them.
The good news? When young adults and their families recognize and prepare for the transition to college and independent living, more positive outcomes are possible! Many young people need explicit instruction, coaching, and practice to develop independent living skills and learn the tools necessary for college life. There are wonderful new programs available that can help teens and young adults get prepared. These programs provide individualized life skills coaching for young adults facing unique challenges, as well as skill-building and support in the college setting. Practicing these skills in their community (i.e., on a college campus, in their home environment) can help young adults gain confidence and advance toward greater levels of independence. For more information on one such program see www.advancela.org
Contributed by: Rachel Round, M.A., Graduate Student and Advance LA Program Coordinator
Edited by: Amy Jane Griffiths, PhD, Director of Advance LA