The Basics

On DB101, there are 4 articles offering specific tips for parents about important areas of transition as your child grows into an adult.

This article, Tips for Parents: Start Planning Now, discusses how you can foster independence, set goals, and plan for the future with your child.It offers advice for how you can start preparing for this process now.

As a parent or guardian, you already have a lot to think about in your day-to-day life. Planning for the future can be overwhelming. However, it is important to spend time thinking about your child’s future and start planning with them.

The good news is that you are on the right track! You are taking the time to learn about how to help your child successfully enter adulthood.

What Is Transition?

In this article, “transition” refers to the shift from childhood into adulthood. This phase usually starts a few years before your child finishes high school. Life is full of transitions, but the transition from childhood into adulthood and independence can be one of the more difficult changes, especially when your child has a disability.

Transition is also a formal legal process that you and your child will go through with your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that, starting at age 16, your child’s IEP team must begin to plan for your child’s transition to adult life after high school.

What Does Transition Involve?

Transition planning should start early and focus on your child and your child’s strengths and desires for the future. The most important person in transition planning is your child, but planning should also include the adults that care about your child, for instance, teachers, counselors, coaches, close friends, and relatives. Parents play a very important role in transition, since you know and understand your child best.

As part of transition planning, you should consider the following:

  • Education after high school
  • Vocational training
  • Employment
  • Independent living
  • Community participation

When planning your child’s transition, you should think up activities that your child can do that will help your child learn specific skills. Then, with your child’s IEP team, you can figure out where your child can do those activities and who can help. Here are some questions to consider to help you and the IEP team focus on your child’s needs:

  • Does your child need a few more skills, so they can work on living independently?
  • Do they need more experiences to help them figure out what they want to do after high school?
  • Would your child benefit from discussing their goals with their disabled and nondisabled friends?
  • What can you as a parent do to support your child in discovering more about their own future?
Turn to the Disability Community for Help

Consider connecting your child with a mentor — perhaps an adult with a disability — who can help your child find their own answers to some of the questions that transition brings up. A mentor can bring a voice of experience that is very valuable.

Here are some websites that can help you find a mentor:

Also think about joining a group of other parents where you can go for support. Being able to talk to others who are in the same situation can really help. To find a support group in California, you have a couple of resources:

What About Benefits?

It is important to make sure your child’s IEP/transition team knows if your child is getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance SSDI), or any other state or federal benefits. That way, these benefits programs and the supports they give can be included in your child’s plan for their future.

SSI has various programs called work incentives that are designed to allow your child to work and continue to get health and cash benefits. Work incentives may offer great opportunities for you, your child, and the IEP/transition team to explore job opportunities for your child while your child is still in school. When students get work experience while in school, it makes them more employable when they graduate. Good work habits start young.

Available Resources

For a more in-depth discussion of transition planning, including how it interacts with your child’s IEP, check out the website of the Center for Parent Information and Resources. It has a full section on the Transition to Adulthood that you may find helpful. has a section of their website that is dedicated to Disability Transition Resources for Parents. It has plenty of links that offer up-to-date, relevant information.

What Does a Successful Transition Look Like?

Each person’s transition into adulthood looks different, but usually a successful transition involves many of the same ideas. A successful transition means that your child is thriving after high school: they are happy, becoming more independent, and preparing for their future.