The most important way to begin to help a young adult plan for a meaningful future is to have expectations (as you--and school staff--would have for any young adult) and to get involved. Schools, students, families and state agencies each have a role to play in planning beyond high school.
When helping your young adult prepare for the world of work, reflect back to your own early work history:
What were your first real work experiences and what did you learn from them?
How did you go about figuring out what you wanted to do for work?
What volunteer or other experiences helped you learn about what it is like to have a job?
Who helped you?
What connections did you make and how did you network?
What were the important work skills you learned as a young adult (for example, punctuality and reliability)?
Recalling your own early work experiences will help you focus on the basic skills that are essential for your young adult when entering the labor market/workplace.
Up until recently, young adults with intellectual disabilities have not had many chances to attend college, nor has it been an option that families considered. This is changing; opportunities are being created for young adults to reap the many benefits of postsecondary education. Like all people, young adults attend college for many reasons. Some want to participate in a new community and build their social skills, others want to pursue an area of interest, others want to explore career options and develop marketable skills, and others attend college for all of these reasons. Community colleges and adult education programs often provide helpful programming for young adults with intellectual disabilities, offering classes for credit or audit, and welcoming aides to attend classes alongside the young adult. Some young adults attend community college while still enrolled in high school which eases the transition to post-secondary education and employment.
Every day the Department of Developmental Services provides specialized services and supports to approximately 32,000 adults with intellectual disabilities and children with developmental disabilities across diverse ethnic, cultural, and linguistic groups.
It is important to remember that eligibility criteria for the Department's adult services are different from eligibility criteria for its children's services. Young adults need to re-apply to DDS during their 17th year, before turning 18, which is when the eligibility requirements change. Families can learn more about adult eligibility for DDS services, including criteria and the application process, by consulting the Department's publication "The Road Forward" (see box).
Once the school has submitted the 688 referral form, the student has been found eligible to receive DDS services as an adult and has turned age 18, the local DDS area office will assign a staff member called a Transition Coordinator to work with each young adult. (Some families may have experience working with a DDS Children's Service Coordinator who may continue to be helpful to the family.) The Transition Coordinator is your primary link to information and assistance from DDS during the transition from school to adult life.
The Transition Coordinator arranges and chairs a meeting or meetings in order to develop the Individual Transition Plan (ITP). The ITP is the document that specifies the types of supports requested for the young adult finishing high school and leaving special education. The ITP meeting is typically held one year before the young adult finishes school, and usually involves the student, family members, school personnel, and other individuals who know the student well.
The purpose of the ITP meeting is to develop a plan that addresses the interests, skills and needs of the young adult. The ITP does not contain specific goals and objectives, or identify specific provider agencies. The ITP functions as more of a "blueprint" of the student's requested support needs. Supports identified in the ITP are not guaranteed and do not create an entitlement; they are subject to prioritization and funding availability. DDS uses a standardized approach to determine an individual's need and priority for service. Funding resources are appropriated each year through the state budget process; therefore, the amount of funding available to young adults can vary.