By Caite Eilenberg, Graduate Intern at the LINK Center
A student’s vision is one of the most important parts of planning for a life after high school. Without a clear idea of what a student wants to do for work, where they want to live, how they’ll get around or who they will hang out with, it is very difficult to create a strong transition plan. While it is important for parents and professionals to assist students in finding their vision for life after high school, it is possibly even more important to help students develop their own vision.
Allowing students themselves to plan for their future means that young adults with disabilities are given the chance to participate in their lives the same way those without disabilities are often encouraged to do. When students are given control of their life, they have more of an opportunity for success and happiness. Below are some things students should begin thinking about as they plan for life after high school.
Where will I live?
What will I do during the day? (School, work, day programs, social activities?)
What is my dream job?
What skills do I need for this job?
How will I get around?
Who can help me learn skills for living and working?
Allowing students to practice and explore skills and strengths during high school provides them opportunities to decide what is best for them after high school. Goals may change throughout high school and that’s ok. Most people begin high school with many goals and they often change as they learn more skills and have new experiences. Starting with big goals and narrowing them down is something we all do. What is important is helping a student find and explore their vision.
Encouraging students’ dreams also helps them to build confidence in their decision-making and may help them to find their voice. Allowing students to find their voice is an important skill for adulthood and something that can be used to help student achieve their goals for life after high school. This is a valuable tool as young adults begin to advocate for themselves and for their needs. For example, a student may need to advocate for assistive technology at work or may need to advocate for disability services at college. Practicing self-determination through advocacy will help students to gain confidence and to feel respected as they leave high school. The more engaged a student is in planning their future, the more likely they are to be engaged and the more promising their future will be.