The changes during transition did make me worry about being isolated in the future - but we coped, because that's what we've always done.
My son didn't have the best of experiences at this stage, but it did encourage me to find out as much information as I could for myself.
At the time, the most important professionals in our lives were my son's consultant and his speech and language therapist. We also got support from one teacher who looked after his pastoral care, and a couple of others who were able to understand him best.
The help from the children's health service has always been good, and we got support with the move from children's to adult health care from our son's consultant. He carried on seeing our son until he was 19, and battled on his behalf to help him get the best support in adult services as he wasn't happy about the level of support we would receive.
I knew not to expect as much help with the move to adult services, and in the end we didn't get any information about the changes we would be going through at this time, or what would be happening with social services. There was also very little support from the Connexions service.
I knew not to expect as much help with the move to adult services, and in the end we didn't get any information about the changes we would be going through at this time.
My son's experiences at school were very mixed. He did have good experiences with some of the other students, especially in his tutor group, and he was very proud of his woodwork creations. However, he went to a mainstream school where the support wasn't as good as it should have been, and he found lessons hard - I even remember a teacher telling me they'd failed him at one point.
It always seemed a battle helping him to prepare for the changes in education during transition. We were not supported to plan for our son's future, and he didn't receive any help to think about it himself. To begin with we had no idea about the key stages in the transition process - apart from reviewing his IEP in year 9 and year 11. They organised the odd work experience placement for him, and tried him on a course for a week, but there wasn't much else. However, by the end of the process I had become a bit of an expert, and I now work independently in the area of transition!
At the time I was really worried that my son was only pretending to understand things at school because he was embarrassed. Some teachers were great at realising this but most were not. I was also worried that he wouldn't receive the support he needed until he reached breaking point and had to be removed from education. His communication needs are quite complex so they didn't always get addressed at this time - his spoken word is better than his comprehension, so it really depended on who was with him.
The other big worry was bullying. He suffered with it in a variety of ways - the other children would take his things, throw his lunch around, push him, and get him to believe things and then laugh at him. They also threatened him so badly that at one point he believed he would die. 2 pupils did get expelled eventually, but he had already been scarred by his experiences.
My son had some sex education at school, but like most teenage boys he found it embarrassing!
My son had some sex education at school, but like most teenage boys he found it embarrassing! In the end it was me that told him about what he should expect. Puberty was delayed for him, but when it started he didn't really want to accept any changes. We had others at home going through hormone changes at the same time, though, so it didn't have a big effect on the family!
Adopted children tend to find things like pressure, change, relationships, and responsibility particularly hard to deal with, especially if their life experiences before adoption have been bad. My son's learning disability did seem to lessen some of the expected effects, such as attachment, but not all of them. He is a very polite young man but very complex! He is of dual diagnosis, in terms of learning disability and mental health. He has been very difficult to manage at times, and most of his behavioural problems happen at home, as this is where he feels the most safe. Now, at 22, he has a behavioural specialist who spends time with him.
I managed to work part time for most of my son's school life. His father was a nurse so he worked shifts. Leisure was a rarity for us both, and we didn't get any breaks from caring. Apart from my son, my mother was also in my care for the later part of this stage, although social services helped with her needs.
We got no support with leisure activities for our son, and our other children were never offered any support. For his siblings the period between13 to19 was a real mixture of emotions - from being embarrassed, to a feeling of ‘he gets away with things because he's got problems, it's not fair!' to being his advocate and defending him against some of the bullying.
We helped our son to prepare for his independence by teaching him life skills, and encouraging his experiences outside the home. We live out in the country with no access to public transport, so this often involved me being the taxi driver! The only opportunities he had were the ones that we helped to create for him. He went out to the Special Olympics, and would sometimes go out with the friends he met there. He was also in a choir and joined the scouts when he was younger, so he would go on outings with them too.
We helped our son to prepare for his independence by teaching him life skills, and encouraging his experiences outside the home.
The statement of special educational needs ceases once your son or daughter leaves school, and the legislation supporting transition planning is much less robust. This means that you as a parent and the people supporting your child have to take much more responsibility in planning for the future. Once your child reaches 18 you as a parent can no longer give your consent on their behalf, and this can affect the way agencies work with them. However, the Connexions service still has a responsibility to them until they reach 25.
My advice for other parents preparing for the move from children's to adult's services would be to make sure you know what assessments you are entitled to, to find out about direct payments and personal budgets, and to make sure your son or daughter has a health action plan. It's also a good idea to check whether any equipment your son or daughter uses will be going with them, and to get a contact list of the key agencies you might need at this stage, like Connexions, and the relevant health teams and social care services.
Direct payments: in some cases, individuals may be able to receive support for their local council as cash, allowing them to choose the services they want for themselves.
Health action plan: whether your son or daughter leaves school at 16 or 19, they should receive a leaving school health check and a health action plan from their school.
IEP: IEP stands for individual education plan. This document is designed to help monitor your child's progress and should be reviewed regularly - ideally every term. Your child's special educational needs co-ordinator should play a key role in developing the IEP, with support from you as a parent, your child and other professionals.
Pastoral care: looking after the personal and social welfare of a child at school.