What kind of things do you think about as you plan for your future? Your education, your career, where you will live, and who you will spend time with are all probably things you think about when you discuss life after high school. What about your peers with significant disabilities? They may very well be making the same kinds of plans as you are, however their planning process might be more involved than yours. First—just like you—a student with disabilities needs to think about what types of things he/she like to do for fun, what things make him/her the happiest, what he/she does not like to do, and how independent he/she would like to be. One key difference between you and a student with a significant disability may be that after you think about these things, you most likely make your decisions on your own. Although you will likely discuss your thoughts with your family, for the most part you are making independent decisions about what you want to do with your life.
A student with a significant disability, on the other hand, may need more support in identifying and achieving the things he or she wants in life. Because of this, the teachers and other school staff who work with students with significant disabilities and their families start working with students early to help them determine what they would like to do after they graduate.
One way to begin this process is by using a resource called the Student Survey for Transition Planning: Plans for the Future. Some questions on this survey are, “What are your fears?” “What are your strengths?” “What are your needs?” “What are three things you would like to work on during the upcoming school year to help reach your transition goals?” Once these types of questions are answered, the student shares his or her ideas with his or her transition team. The team (e.g., teachers, parents, vocational rehabilitation counselor, and/or job coach) will then help the student figure out what needs to happen to reach these goals. Transition planning s begins at age 14 for students in Kentucky that have disabilities. This may sound early, but think of it this way: If you wanted to go to college, at what age would you start taking classes to prepare you for this choice? Probably your freshman year, or at 14! It is no different for students with disabilities; they need to plan ahead to meet their goals, whether that goal is to go to college, get a job that interests them, or participate in their community in other meaningful ways!
Another strategy that people with disabilities can use is Person Centered Planning. This is a group or team process to ensure that the wants and desires of the focus person (the student) are heard and met to the maximum extent possible. To review the process of person centered planning, visit the instructional unit titled, Self-Determination and Person Centered Planning. The unit in this section called “personal futures planning” will take you step by step through the person centered planning process.
Yet another planning process that individuals with significant disabilities use to plan for adulthood is the MAPS process. Like person-centered planning, a full description of this process is located in the Self-Determination and Person Centered Planning Units. Both of these strategies serve to help organize and guide a student’s transition from high school to adult life. The purpose is to create a vision for the student and make that vision a reality, as opposed to trying to fit a person into pre-determined jobs, living arrangements, etc. Peer buddies can be very important members of Person Centered Planning and especially MAPS! Your input into helping the student achieve his or her goals can be invaluable.
It is never too early to start planning for the transition from high school to life after high school. Based upon the dream a student with significant disabilities has for his or her own life, the school should coordinate transition activities, and/or services to help the student begin moving towards that dream. Helping a person prepare for life after high school should involve classroom instruction, community based instruction, developing employment objectives, daily living skills, possibly a community-based or ‘real-life’ vocational evaluation with the help of local vocational rehabilitation services, and creating objectives for other adult living areas that the person will experience.
Learning to function independently and productively in the real world is an important part of anyone’s education. This is especially important for students who have significant disabilities. Teaching such functional skills as money management, making purchases, safety skills, personal care, and using the telephone, is an essential part of a person with disabilities’ education, just as all of us need to know how to do these skills!
You can help your peer buddy by practicing these skills whenever you would usually use them, like calling each other to confirm meeting for dinner, for example. You can also spend time talking with your buddy about his/her life goals, and get involved in helping him or her to meet these goals. You and your buddy are both making plans for after high school, so this is one area where you can share and grow in your relationship as you support one another’s decisions.
To get a sense of what is possible for students with disabilities after high school, go to:
I hope you enjoyed reading the true stories of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have defied the expectations of society by attending college after school. Just like these students, your peer buddy has the potential to plan for a future that fulfills them. This may or may not include higher education, but most importantly should consider what your buddy would like to do!
Make a list of the different things that need to be taken into consideration when planning for life after high school. What’s going to change? In 1-2 pages, describe how you could help your friends or peers with disabilities plan for these changes.
Now that we’ve covered some of the essential things to think about before making that transition to the “real world”, let’s take a closer look at that word “transition”. What does it mean? What does it entail? To find out, continue on to the next section.