When your son or daughter leaves school there may be a number of options open to them, depending on where you live and the services available in your area.
Currently, it would be misleading to say that there are lots of choices out there for young people with a learning disability – however, good planning for transition includes talking about what a young person needs to be properly supported to achieve the adult life they want, even if the services don't currently exist.
Our son is now 17 years old and over the last three years has grown into a confident young man who loves going out to new places, meeting new people through voluntary work and learning new things through the groups he attends. Some of the keys to success for us have been timely advice, taking gradual small steps and having a choice of support workers.
In England, if your son or daughter has a statement of SEN, Connexions must complete an assessment of their education and training needs and produce a written report in the last year of compulsory school (year 11). This is called a Section 140 assessment. The assessment may be made up to the age of 25. This should help you and your son or daughter to think about possible education and training options.
1. Further education
Between the ages of 16 and 19, your son or daughter may choose to go on to further education, for example at a local college. They may want to study an academic course or something more work-related.
As a parent, you will need to think about whether it would be better for your son or daughter to take a specialist course for young people with a learning disability, or whether a mainstream course with support could work. Ask your local college what courses they have available and what support they can offer. Many schools also have links with their local colleges, so some students may have a chance to spend time in college whilst they are still at school.
You might think that if your son or daughter has profound and multiple learning disabilities that further education won't be an option – but that doesn't need to be the case. Some colleges have specific courses for young people with PMLD so do check this out in your area.
As well as mainstream colleges, there are also specialist colleges for young people with a learning disability; most of which are residential. If your son or daughter is interested in this option, it is a good idea to start planning early as securing a place and organising funding can be a lengthy process.
- Contact Skill, an organisation that specialises in access to education after the age of 16, training at work and employment.
- Find out about Mencap's residential colleges for young adults aged 16-25 with a learning disability.
- Search the directory of colleges providing further education and training for students with learning disabilities on the Association of National Specialist Colleges website.
2. Training and work
If your son or daughter is thinking about getting a job, you may want to work with their school to help them organise some work experience or a volunteer placement. This will help them to get an idea of what kind of work they would like to do, what they enjoy and what they find difficult, and what kind of support they may need in the workplace.
There are a range of different training schemes available, including work based training, apprenticeships and volunteering schemes. Even if paid work is not a possibility for your son or daughter, these opportunities may still provide valuable experience and skills.
- Find out more about the support Mencap can offer to help your son or daughter find work
3. Day opportunities
In recent years, day opportunities for adults with a learning disability have changed significantly in many areas. Services are increasingly community-based, and should be centred on an individual plan developed with you and your son or daughter to ensure their activities are based on their interests and what they find enjoyable and meaningful. This could include a leisure activity, time doing a volunteer placement or a part-time placement at college. For young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, many day services offer specialised activities such as sensory rooms, aromatherapy massage and access to hydrotherapy pools.
- Find out more about opportunities offered by specialist organisations, such as Mencap and Home Farm Trust (HFT).
Increasingly local areas in England and Wales are now offering personal budgets rather than services, giving you and your son or daughter the flexibility to arrange your own choice of daytime or evening activities. This is a key part of personalisation – the term used to describe new changes in social care services in England (or person-centred approaches in Wales).
Personalised approaches recognise that young people and their families are the best people to say the kind of support they need for adult life, and who they would like to provide it. It means giving young people real choice and control over their adult lives – and this can mean having greater control over funding for support.