Transition Planning: A Parent’s Guide to Letting Go

Letting go is hard for parents. Especially for parents of young adults with disabilities. Throughout your child’s entire life, up to this point, you’ve not only been their parent, but full-time caregiver as well. Relinquishing all of that responsibility isn’t easy, but it’s necessary for you and your child to move forward in life. That’s why there are transition plans.

What is transition planning?

Transition planning is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (I.D.E.A.) and is designed to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities adapt to adult life. To learn more about what a transition plan entails, check out our blog post How to Develop a Successful Transition Plan.

Letting Go is a Process

Letting go isn’t sink or swim. It doesn’t mean abandoning your child to the great big world and hoping they manage to be successful. Rather, it means encouraging your young adult to become as independent as he or she is able. And it’s a process. We know letting go isn’t easy. That’s why we’re sharing these transition planning steps.

7 Steps to Prepare for Transition Planning

  1. Teach Your Child Self-Advocacy: Empower your child to advocate for themselves. When they’re young, educate your child about his/her disabilities and ensure they know how to explain it to others. You can find powerful resources regarding self-advocacy in our blog post The Three Parts of Self-Advocacy for People with Disabilities.
  2. Get Academic Support for your Child: Most often, academic support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities comes in the form of an Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.). An I.E.P. is a legally binding document that spells out exactly what kinds of services your child needs and why. It is also accompanied by an I.E.P. team composed of educational professionals and you (the parents). Many people think they need to request an I.E.P. from their child’s school, but this isn’t the case. Rather, you simply need to ask the school for your child to be evaluated; however, sometimes the school will contact you, first, to ask whether or not they can evaluate your child. The school cannot evaluate your child without your consent. For a good idea on whether or not your child will be eligible for an I.E.P., here’s an article detailing the thirteen disability categories deemed eligible by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (I.D.E.A.).

    If your child is not eligible for an I.E.P., that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road. A 504 plan is a formal plan that schools develop to give students with disabilities the support they need. That covers any condition that limits daily activities in a major way and is non-discriminatory. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, students with disabilities have the right to reasonable accommodations.

    Assistive technology has come a long way in terms of helping students with disabilities learn more comfortably and successfully. Assistive technology includes everything from talk-to-type capabilities to hearing aids, motorized wheelchairs, and more. Discover the benefits of assistive technology devices through this interview on assistive technology in the classroom.
  3. Give them Responsibilities: Responsibility is something that can be ingrained at a young age. Give your child responsibilities that they are able to do with or without assistance. Responsibility instills good values and gives everyone a feeling of accomplishment and productivity. When your child transitions into adulthood and ventures out into the greater community, they will not be a stranger to responsibility.
  4. Teach your Child Basic Life Skills: While academics are important, daily living skills are just as crucial to your young adult’s success. How to handle money, coping skills, technology, and how to ride a bike are just a handful of examples of things most people do regularly, if not every day. When your child is confident with basic life skills, they will be more comfortable in their pursuit of greater independence.
  5. Explore what Level of Independence is Achievable: It’s important to know your destination. With your child and your support system, make a solid transition plan based on what lifestyle your child plans to lead as they enter adulthood. There are many different avenues to explore depending on whether your child plans to live independently, with assistance, or at home. If your child plans to remain at home, however, give them (manageable) responsibilities that you would expect from an adult living in your household.
  6. Support their Social Life: After high school, keeping in touch with friends can fall by the wayside. But a social life has many benefits, including stress relief, community engagement, and self-esteem, and social development. Encourage your young adult to maintain friendships by staying in contact with high school friends, as well as helping them branch out and make new friends at community events and other programs.
  7. Take on an Advisory Role: When your child is young, you (and your partner, if applicable) are their primary decision-maker. You have your child’s best interests at heart, and know what moves they should make in order to get to where they want to be. But as your child transitions into a young adult, take care to shift your role from primary decision-maker to consultant. This will help ensure your child feels empowered to make his/her own decisions with confidence, and keep you in the loop.

Transition Planning Resources

Transition planning is a journey that’s literally years in the making. It’s important for not only your child to be prepared for the transition from childhood to adulthood, but for you (the parent) as well. The following resources provide excellent information to support your transition planning.

  1. is a federal government website that serves as a starting point for all government services and information sites.
  2. Health Finder is a key resource for finding the best government and nonprofit health and human services information on the Internet.
  3. National Center on Secondary Education and Transition disseminates information related to secondary education and transition for youth with disabilities.
  4. Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (P.A.C.E.R.) offers educational materials, information about resources and services, online training and individual assistance for parents of children with disabilities.
  5. The Informing Families Network has printable resources to help you navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood, organized by age range.

Community Engagement is Key

Community engagement is huge for individuals developing social skills, a sense of purpose and belonging, and overall well-being. These all contribute toward life enrichment and greater independence. Through community engagement, Covey helps individuals with disabilities and their families connect with the greater community. We attend sporting events, painting classes, have shopping trips, and more.

To discover more about our community engagement program, connect with us at