As a parent of a child with a disability, one of the thoughts I had throughout Ryan’s educational career was, “Will he be prepared for life after school?” Thinking back, Ryan was seven years old when my brother, pediatric neurologist Dr. Joe Barber, said: “It’s important to begin planning for transition now, and not to wait until he’s in high school.” At first, I was taken aback; but the more I thought about this concept, I knew he was right. So, at each of his IEP meetings I would always preface the discussion by saying, “What we are planning today needs to address what he will need when he turns 18.” I do believe that Ryan was better prepared than most because of my continued focus on preparation.
The recently published findings of a 2012 study, exploring the characteristics and experiences of 13,000 students between ages 13-21, suggest
some disturbing facts surrounding this issue:
- Youth with an IEP are more likely than the
ir peers to be socio-economically disadvantaged and to face problems with health and communication
- This same group is also more likely than any other youth group to struggle academically, yet by contrast, they are less likely some form of school-based support
- Five groups – Youth with autism; intellectual disabilities; multiple disabilities; deaf/blindness; orthopedic impairments – appear to be at a higher risk than all other youth for challenges in making successful transition from high school
What is most startling to me is that for many years we have drawn attention to the importance of transition for students with disabilities, yet these statistics would indicate that our success has been minimal. Is this occurring because we have insufficient funding? Perhaps we have not dedicated sufficient focus to the policies that would have decreased, if not eradicated, this problem. Whatever the underlying issue, we must renew our attention to this important area to provide greater support to these students.