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How to use person-centered thinking to help individuals who have intellectual disabilities prepare for life after high school

Person-centered thinking is a pretty simple concept: put individuals first, listen carefully so you can learn who they are and what they want from life, then work together to set and achieve goals. As the parent of an individual who has an intellectual disability, much of your time is spent championing what you believe your child needs. Now, as you help navigate your child’s transition from high school to what’s next, it’s essential to shift from what you see for your child’s future to what they want and see for their future so you can help them navigate and realize it.

Personal choice is a human right. People who have an intellectual disability must have a controlling voice in their current and future goals to achieve an enriching and meaningful life.

Independence means different things to different people, but ultimately, it should enable someone to grow in skills, personal relationships, and inclusion in their community. For students with disabilities, the transition from high school to what’s next can be incredibly stressful and bring some unique challenges. If you want to help your child prepare for life after high school, consider doing the following:

  • Encourage your child to participate in all decision-making about their education and employment planning. Teach them about their rights and responsibilities as adults and as an individual with a disability.
  • Allow your child to make their own choices and encourage them to express their ideas, thoughts, and hopes for the future as early as possible.
  • Help set your child up with the resources and structure necessary to best promote independence.
  • It’s ok to be a protective parent but also allow your child to take reasonable risks. The opportunities to experience life like the rest of us are what we would want for any child, disability or not.
  • Help your child learn about their disability so they can share any needs they may have in association with it.

Having viable options after graduation, regardless of age, is essential. Understand what your child wants and embraces the resources to make it happen.

One Step Beyond provides innovative and responsive programs that increase access to community resources and services for adults (18+) who have intellectual disabilities. For support or to learn more about how to help your child transition to post-high school life, visit the One Step Beyond website at www.osbi.org

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