Transitioning students to adult services

It is that time of year again: Graduation ceremonies will be taking place throughout the state of Iowa. This time of year means change and transition for many students and their families.  However, parents and other caregivers of young people with disabilities must take into account some additional factors as their students approach the transition from high school to adulthood.  

Below are some special considerations a family with a student with special needs may encounter:

Fear of the future. For the last 12+ years school has provided a structure and familiar setting for a student. When the student graduates and leaves school, it is time to create a new setting/environment. This can be a time of great uncertainty.

High school graduation can bring back feelings associated with grief for family members. I have a daughter who is now 23. A few years back, I was waiting to pick her up from a shift working in a college cafeteria. As I was waiting all of a sudden I thought to myself, “She is the same age as the students walking around this campus.” I felt a wave of sadness. I wished she would have been able to attend college like the students I was watching.  

Families during this time have to practice patience, persistence, and be an advocate for their child. It takes a considerable amount of time to fill out new paperwork, learn new systems in the adult services realm, and get things set for their child going forward.

Northwest Area Education Agency has a Transition Team that is available to support school teams and parents throughout a student's high school years to prepare for this big change. If you have any questions, please contact Pam Woelber, family educator partnership coordinator, at