The Guide to Future Planning

Planning the NEXT STEPS to Adult Life for
Students with Disabilities


Welcome to the future! Whether you are a student with a disability or a family member, educator or adult service provider for a student, you’ve just arrived at a website that will help with plans for adult life.

What is the Guide to Future Planning, and Why Use It?

The Guide will help you think about a student’s plans for adult life. It can help a student and his or her planning partners focus on hopes, dreams and goals for the future. Using the Guide provides a way to identify the steps a student needs to take to reach those goals. It also gives a student a way to work as a team with other people who have information and ideas. This teamwork will increase the chance that a student will come up with a successful plan for adult life.

Students Plan for Their Own Success

Many students don’t realize how important it is for them to take an active role in planning for their own future. It is also hard for some parents to let their children assume responsibility and control. Research has shown, however, that young people with disabilities are more likely to be successful as adults if they have experience making their own decisions and choices. The Guide to Future Planning gives students a way to take an active role in decisions about their own lives.

Planning Should Start Early: It’s the Law

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) now requires that planning for adult life start while students are still in school. By the time a student turns 14, he/she and the members of the IEP team must start preparing for life after graduation. By age 14, the IEP must include a plan for the courses that he or she will need in order to prepare for the future. By age 16, each student must have a transition plan. A transition plan is the part of the IEP that describes the services and activities needed to prepare for life after graduation. It includes other agencies that will help make the plan work. This transition plan must be updated every year. The student must be invited to any IEP meetings where transition services are being planned. In most states the right to make decisions about a student’s educational program transfers from the parent to the student when he or she reaches the age of majority. The age of majority is when a child becomes an adult under the law unless it is determined that he/she is incompetent. In most states, the age of majority is 18. For more information about IDEA and the other laws related to transition planning click here.

Learning about Adult Services Is Important

During transition planning, students and their families find out about community agencies and programs that provide services to persons with disabilities after high school. Some of these adult services include job training and placement, assistance in getting housing, and programs on health care and independent living.

One of the most important adult services is vocational rehabilitation available through your state. Vocational rehabilitation services include planning, assistance, support and training that helps a person get ready for and find a job. Most every state has a vocational rehabilitation agency, with regional offices, that provides these services. For instance, in Virginia this agency is called the Department of Rehabilitative Services.

One important thing to remember is that unlike the special education system, a person with disabilities does not automatically get free vocational rehabilitation services. A person must meet certain qualifications, and some agencies also charge fees for their services. Because there is no central system of adult services like there is for special education, a student and his/her family must deal with a complicated assortment of adult services and government programs. For more information about vocational rehabilitation services, click here.

Self-Advocacy Skills: You Need Them!

It is important for every student to learn and practice self-advocacy skills.  By practicing, students can find ways to be comfortable about being an effective advocate. Being a self-advocate means knowing your rights, standing up for those rights, taking responsibility for your life, and asking for help because you want or need it. By becoming a good self-advocate, a person becomes more independent. For more information about self-advocacy, click here.

Who Should Use the Guide to Future Planning

The correct answer, of course, is the student! But not alone. To answer all the questions in the Guide, a student needs advice, information and ideas from other people. This kind of planning takes teamwork and partnership. Ideally, the planning team will include all of the following partners:

There may be others, like friends or neighbors, that a student would like to be a member of the planning team.

Being a Good Self-advocate Does Not Mean Planning for the Future Alone

No one can do everything alone – we all depend on other people at different times for different reasons. This is what partnership is all about. Good transition planning for the future happens when students, their families, educators, and adult service providers work as partners. Each member of the partnership brings special knowledge. Each member has different roles and responsibilities on the team. For example, the roles and responsibilities of a student may include sharing information about himself—feelings, goals, interests and needs. For a parent or family member, it is providing guidance and support as well as allowing opportunities for a student to take risks and make mistakes. The adult service provider may teach skills and help open doors to different opportunities. For more information about what makes a good partnership, click here.

How to Use the Guide to Future Planning

The first few pages of the Guide help a student and his planning partners think about these things:

The rest of the Guide helps the student and his/her partner team think about and plan for these things:

The Guide will also help the student and his partner team figure out what help and support he/she will need to make plans for the future.

More about Help and Support

In the Guide to Future Planning a student and his partners will be thinking about two types of support that could be used to get help now and in adult life. One is called Informal Supports. Informal supports are the kinds of help we might get from a family member or friend such as a ride to work, some advice about getting a job, or help with shopping. Informal supports also might be things we use to help with daily life like an alarm clock, an address book, or a map. Formal Supports are the options available through adult service providers, government agencies, and private agencies and organizations. Formal supports include agencies like a state’s vocational rehabilitation department and other organizations that might help you get a job. They also include things like public transportation systems, Centers for Independent Living, or Social Security. For more information on Formal and Informal Supports, click here.

Good Partnerships
Vocational Rehabilitation

To begin planning your future, click on the stairway

A staircase.

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