Teaching for Life After School

Students with special needs require a more specialized and accommodating education, especially those with more severe disabilities. To help them successfully move into adulthood, a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will often include transition services (to read about the requirements from IDEA, click here). It is added to their IEP no later than when that student turns 16.

Typical High School Path for Special Needs Students

Typically, students with severe disabilities attend school until they are 21. Some high schools offer a “life skills” program to prepare students for life after school. Students usually move to a transition program when they turn 18 that is geared toward work, future education, living, and participation in the community. The classes can focus on everyday activities like washing dishes and doing laundry or tasks that will help in a vocation. Most students with severe disabilities will shift from an academic heavy curriculum to one that centers on life skills for a few reasons. It is highly unlikely that they will go to college. Instead, those who are able will go straight into the workforce, so focusing on jobs they will potentially have in the future is much more beneficial as they look toward their life after school.

Students usually move to a transition program when they turn 18 that is geared toward work, future education, living, and participation in the community. 

Life after High School

Furthermore, most individuals with severe disabilities are not able to live independently. As an alternative to staying at home with their parents or guardians, they can live in a group home. Individuals who live in a group home are often assigned daily tasks, like mowing the lawn, vacuuming, or doing dishes; transition programs greatly help with these assignments. Finally, after they turn 21 and leave school, there are very limited opportunities for people with severe disabilities. Unfortunately, in some states, there is low funding for special education services outside of the classroom. There are very few adult special needs programs, and the ones that do exist are not easily accessible or affordable for the average family.

After [students with disabilities] turn 21 and leave school, there are very limited opportunities…

Thus, special needs professionals should work to account for these needs, which would increase the demand and value of those who work as a transition coordinator or in transition services. They permit students to move smoothly into adult life with useful skills and qualifications. Hopefully, in the near future, there will be more adult programs that will enable special needs adults to live a fulfilling life.