Going from the teenage years to adulthood is a huge transition in a person’s life. During this time, we work to develop our sense of identity, figure out plans for the future, and become more independent. This period can be difficult and scary for most of us, and our teenagers with special needs often require even more support to navigate this stressful time. From exiting school to taking on new work opportunities, friendships, and responsibilities, so many new challenges may arise. However, occupational therapy practitioners are uniquely suited to help these individuals to be successful during this transition.


How Occupational Therapists Can Help


Occupational therapy practitioners work with these young adults and families to establish and meet their short-term and long-term goals. OTs get to know the individual’s interests and aspirations, as well as the family’s expectations for the future. Additionally, OTs evaluate the individual’s current skills/habits and develop a personalized treatment plan to best support these young adults toward their goals. OTs may address any cognitive, physical, social/emotional, or environmental challenges that impact the individual’s ability to complete the tasks that are meaningful to them and their family. While every treatment session may look different, OT practitioners provide a “just right” challenge to ensure the young adult is gaining the skills necessary to be as independent as possible.


Areas That OT May Target With Teenagers/Young Adults Transitioning into Adulthood:


  • Daily Living Skills: OTs may work with these individuals on personal hygiene, completing household chores, preparing a meal, managing money, grocery shopping, using transportation/driving, managing personal safety/emergencies, handling medication, etc.
  • Pre-vocational Skills: OTs may work on job-specific tasks, social skills for working with customers or co-workers, interview preparation, etc.
  • Social and Leisure Participation: OTs may work on navigating new social relationships, dating, leisure activities, etc.
  • Post-Secondary Education: OTs may work on organization skills, time management, technological skills, etc. needed for post-secondary programs.
  • Self-Advocacy and Self-Determination: OTs support individuals with special needs to advocate for their needs and make decisions (big or small) for themselves, which can greatly improve their quality of life

Where to Start?

  • Discuss goals and expectations for the transition with your teen/young adult. What are your expectations for them as they prepare to leave high school? What goals do they have for themselves?
  • Start working on these skills early! As many of our special needs children require more time and practice to master new skills, the sooner you start addressing the transition to adulthood, the sooner you will set them up for success.
  • Reach out if you feel like your teenager/young adult would benefit from additional support to transition into adulthood. If you are unsure of whether you need assistance, contact CEPT to set up a screening or get a copy of our Transition to Adulthood Checklist for Special Needs Kids. We are happy to help get you in the right direction!

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