Impact Feature Issue on Parenting Teens and Young Adults with Disabilities

What Does Health Have to Do with Transition? Everything!

It is not common practice to identify health-related needs and goals when developing a statement of transition services within a student’s IEP. However, lack of attention to health needs and health management can jeopardize goals for learning, working, and living safely in the community. For this reason it is important that young people with disabilities know how to manage their own health care and work with appropriate professionals as partners in their care.

Health is an important factor to include even if chronic health concerns do not exist. All people must deal with health problems and learn how to maintain good health.

Transferring responsibility for self-care to an adolescent is a complex process. It requires assessing a variety of factors, including the complexity of a youth’s health needs, his or her physical and cognitive abilities and degree of self-determination, as well as family factors (Kelly, Kratz, Bielski, & Rinehart, 2002). Cultural factors such as values, health care practices, and beliefs about disability must also be considered (Geenen, Powers, & Lopez-Vasquez, 2001). The IEP lends itself well to evaluating factors needed for successful health outcomes as youth transition from special education to the adult world….

Because it is not yet common practice, families may find they have to bring health-care concerns to the attention of the IEP team in order for their son or daughter’s health needs to be addressed. It can also be very difficult for parents to give full responsibility for health issues to a young adult because of the obvious dangers of mismanagement....It is beneficial to clearly identify concerns and discuss best- and worst-case scenarios. Support and emergency plans can be developed, and youth can become aware of the impact of certain behaviors on their health in order to make informed choices. This approach has been successful in alleviating some fears and providing teens with a better understanding of how to maintain their health. These and other health-care issues can be addressed in the statement of transition services in a student’s IEP...

Excerpted and reprinted with permission from(May 2006), by Ceci Shapland, Co-Director of the Healthy & Ready to Work National Center. Published by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, University of Minnesota.

  • Geenen, C., Powers, L. E., & Lopez-Vasquez, A. (2011). Parents as partners: Understanding and promoting the multicultural aspects of parent involvement in transition planning. Portland, OR: Oregon Health Sciences University, Center on Self-DeterminationP.

  • Kelly, A. M., Kratz, B., Bielski, B., & Rinehart, P. M. (2002). Implementing transitions for youth with complex chronic conditions using a medical home. Pediatrics, 100(6), 1322–1327.