Community Living Kawartha Lakes developed a transition planning manual several years ago called "Building My Bridges from School to Adult Life - A Transition Planning Manual for My Future" which includes a page called "Wishes and Dreams". The idea of people having wishes and dreams sometimes helps students to better understand transition planning.
Everyone has Wishes and Dreams
Many young people with intellectual disabilities haven't thought about the fact that they could do anything in life other than what they're directed to do. In fact, they may have been explicitly told that they shouldn't try something because they won't be able to do it, or told some activities simply aren't options for them. It takes a while for some of them to really consider what they'd like to do in life and to start talking about it.
The people that have told them that they shouldn't try something or out-and-out forbidden it have sometimes done it with the best of intentions. They've not wanted to set the young person up for failure, or put them in a position where they could potentially experience disappointment or rejection. Sometimes they have concerns about the student's safety or well-being, and sometimes those concerns are legitimate. And everyone should be so lucky, to have people who are concerned about their physical and emotional well-being.
But everyone has the right to wishes and dreams, including people with intellectual disabilities. Transition planning is identifying those wishes and dreams, evaluating what's needed to make them come true, and coming up with a plan to do so.
Transition Planning in Action
A couple of examples...
- A student may want to go on to post-secondary education. Transition planning will include working with the school to sure that the student has all the courses that he or she needs to apply. In Canada, going to community college or doing an apprenticeship is an ambitious (but not impossible) goal for a student with an intellectual disability, and may take some time to achieve. There may be significant setbacks and disappoints along the way. But students need to learn to deal with setbacks and disappoints, too, just as everyone else does. Just because dreams are ambitious and may cause a student disappointment are no reason not to include them in a transition plan.
- A student may want to live independently. Many students with intellectual disabilities require skill-building and safety training, and sometimes some support services, to ensure that they will be safe in an independent living setting. Transition planning will include working with the school to see what independent living skills the student can learn there, assisting the family to apply for funding for a life skills worker, educating the family on how they can teach life skills at home, and assisting the student and to apply for supported independent living housing arrangements. Transition plan goals should take into account that the individual can learn new skills before reaching the goal.
- A student may have a goal that may be unlikely to reach for anybody. Not many people are going to be professional ballet dancers, for example. But no one told me when I was ten that I couldn't take ballet, dream about ballet, and learn about what I needed to do to become one. I was eventually disappointed when I learned that I couldn't be, yes. But I found ways to continue to keep ballet in my life. Transition planning for the student who wants to be a Hollywood director will include researching ways to indulge his love of film in the community, perhaps through a job at a movie theatre or video store and expanding his social network to find friends to go to the movies with. Transition planning should be creative.
Wishes and Dreams of Friends and Family
Good transition planning is person-centred. People who are important to the student, such as family, friends, teachers and support people should be encouraged to talk about their wishes and dreams for the student's adult life. Ultimately, however, it's the student's life goals that should guide planning. As a transition planner, my first responsibility was to the student.
More about transition planning from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (American resource):