Alarm clock displaying timeExpectations for Youth with Disabilities

As a Transition Specialist, I attend a lot of meetings with families to help plan for future opportunities for young adults with disabilities. I love meeting with families to think through how to help young adults have a meaningful life after high school. I see potential in all young adults. Sadly, families and schools often help young adults too much. That limits skill development. An important skill for young adults to develop is making their own decisions.  When they make more of their own decisions, they realize the importance of responsibility.

Do Accommodations help?

I find many accommodations are necessary for young adults to learn to be independent. On the other hand, I also find accommodations can limit a young adult’s growth at times. One example I often see is that young adults with disabilities often have more flexibility when it comes to being on time or attending classes. This is an example of a special rule most young adults with disabilities do not truly need. It teaches them a bad lesson around responsibility.

Why should we push youth with disabilities to follow the same rules?

Accommodations that allow young adults to play by a different set of rules sends the wrong message. That does not prepare young adults for life after high school.  In the world of work, employers are often not as forgiving when it comes to being late for work, or not showing up at all. During the transition years of high school, it is important to teach independence and responsibility.  These are the most important skills that students will need in college, employment, or other community involvement. Most of the students I have worked with hope for at least one or more of these activities when we talk about future goals.

How can we help youth with disabilities be more prepared?

We need to put more effort and thought into teaching lessons, around responsibility and independence, to young adults with disabilities.  Massachusetts has a goal for all young adults with disabilities to transition into the community, and to have a meaningful life that, if possible, includes working. Responsibility is one of the main skills that can help young adults make this goal a reality.  I work with families and schools to practice self-determination for young adults with disabilities. Self-determination is a strategy that encourages independence and choice-making, which can lead to more responsibility and a more-fulfilling adult life.  We need to make sure we provide all necessary supports to help young adults with disabilities reach their full potential, but not teach those who are able that

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