The period of transition is one that is daunting for any individual, but especially if a young person has additional support needs.
As a young person with a physical disability, I found the process of transition a very challenging process, and I didn’t know what my future would hold. The transition thinkSpace brought about many issues concerning both families and professionals, such as accessing services, available support, and employment opportunities for people with additional support needs. This included how people with disabilities can access the world of employment, as well as receive a sufficient amount of support to access college or other activities. When a young person turns 18, a whole “process” begins of them receiving adult services. According to The Scottish Transitions Forum, this process needs to start a lot earlier in order to prepare a young person in transition.
Before that stage, it is important for young people to feel that they are fully included in their peer group. The discussions looked at the idea of inclusion and if different services or educational opportunities were available. From experience, the lack of resources and support available can lead to people struggling to find opportunities to access further education or employment. College courses seem to be a good stepping-stone for people to broaden their skills, learn about interesting subjects and gain qualifications. Saying that there may still be a number of people who can’t access further education. When support exists, people can support individuals to achieve the things they want to achieve, but access needs to be consistent. This is very important to me, as having Self-directed Support enabled me to attend college and university, and life would be very different now if I did not have these opportunities.
The concept of being in transition for people with disabilities is a challenging one. The planning should start around two years in advance of the transition, in order for the transition to go smoothly. By using person-centred approaches, individuals can map out the way that they want their lives to be like, and what support they need to achieve this. Having used Person-centred Planning (PCP) myself, I know the incredible value that can come from spending a few hours creating an exciting plan for the future based on your own decisions. Personally, I feel there is a lot of emphasis on paperwork and making sure the correct boxes are ticked, which can be a long drawn out process that focuses on specific support needs and how much that would cost, rather than looking at the individual and what their goals and aspirations are.
On the issue surrounding employment, and how hard it is for people with disabilities, there are some existing organisations, such as Into Work, that are doing work to help people to find information about employment opportunities. This may help remove the stigma of people with disabilities not being able to find a meaningful job, and encourage people to find employment. The idea of people being given the opportunity to gain skills to equip them for employment is crucial. Some people may feel abandoned after school as no-one encourages them to explore their options, which may leave them stuck after school not knowing what to do, and these organisations should be helping them.
During the thinkSpace we heard a young person, Alexander Warren, speak about his journey through the transition process, from being isolated by attending a special school for people with disabilities, to living a full and independent life. The concept of Person-centred Planning seemed to be a life-changing tool for him as he could dream and achieve. Personally, I found this a great tool too as I could quickly show new professionals exactly what I wanted to achieve, and how they could assist. Alexander was able to socialize and go travelling, and he went on to attend acting school. He now runs his own company where he travels around helping people to discover their own dreams. I think it is important for professionals to hear these stories, as it reminds them what impact their work has on people who use services, and that it is extremely worthwhile.
This was followed by Scott Richardson-Read from The Scottish Transitions Forum who spoke about the Principles of Good Transitions 3. This examines the way in which young people in transition can become trapped within the transition system without always knowing what is going on. I feel communication is the key to a positive and smooth transition. People may be excited to move on into a new situation, and if done correctly, the move can be a great improvement in the young person’s life, however, this isn’t always the case. Having principles can help professionals ensure they cover all the key parts of a young person’s life. This is very important as from experience transitions are a scary process, and people may get caught up in not knowing what is going to happen.
Overall, the event was very insightful, as it had been quite a while since my own transition, but the same questions arose, and families still have some questions which people may not be able to answer. I really recognise the benefits of having plans as I have been through many transitions and I understand the frustrations and struggles, as well as the success.
The best piece of advice I would give as a young adult with a disability is never to lose sight of what you want to achieve because you can achieve it, and you will feel great when you do.