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Entering Adulthood with Disabilities

August 05, 2014

Learning-Disability-in-the-Workplace-Adults-with-DyslexiaMany resources are available for children with disabilities and adults with disabilities, but what information and services are available to those who exist between the two age groups? It has been reported that teenagers with disabilities face extreme challenges when transitioning into adulthood. In fact, some have described the transition like falling off a cliff.

It is important that teenagers transitioning into their young adult years feel prepared and confident as they move into the future. This is a hard season of life for any person, let alone an individual who has disabilities. Unfortunately, the consequences of not getting a sure footing in adulthood can be grave for someone with a disability.

A couple studies have been conducted to expose this dilemma and some even propose action steps young adults can take to best prepare themselves for the journey ahead. “Best Journey to Adult Life” was a research study and guide published in 2009. Much of the research took place in Ontario.

The study simplifies the transition process by breaking it down into three phases.

Three phases of the transition process:


  • Preparation – This is a deliberate mindset that should be implemented in late childhood. Much time ought to be given to thinking about future milestones. Also, small acts can be done to start the preparation process.
  • The Journey Often times, the end of high school marks the start of the transition period, also known as “The Journey.” This is the time when young adults experience a world that lacks the parameters they had in youth. It is also filled with goals and aspirations. Teenagers who are willing to work hard and stay focused in this phase have the best chances of landing in adulthood.
  • Landing in Adulthood The journey to adulthood may seem long, and it’s hard to say that a person has ever truly “landed” in this stage of life. However, in order to be considered an adult, some milestones need to be reached, like getting and maintaining a job.

Let’s further explore these phases and identify key factors that contribute to success in young adulthood.


Throughout the study, it is made clear that a supportive community is one of the most important factors in creating a positive environment for growth. While deliberate arrangements for adulthood may start in late teenage years, preparation begins long before that. By being involved in an effective community structure, young adults with disabilities can receive encouragement and training that will catapult them into successful lives.

The Journey

This phase seems to go best when appropriate structures are in place. Goals need to be set and establishing an accountability system is ideal. All the while, room for flexibility must be allowed, as this season of life can be full of surprises. With a supportive community of family members, friends, accountability partners and service providers, young adults with disabilities can navigate the sometimes volatile world of independence and consistently work to reach their goals.

Landing in Adulthood

Being a successful adult is all about collaboration. Everyone needs help sometimes. For most people, living an adult life involves keeping a job and living independently. These large undertakings are best accomplished when a community of support is available to lend a helping hand when needed.

Adulthood is an “ongoing developmental process.” Having a strong network of support to collaborate with in times of need can help ensure the developmental process continues to move in the right direction.

These three phases towards adulthood are evident in the lives of every person. However, for people with disabilities, this process is critical. Without properly launching into adulthood, chances of facing crushing obstacles in the future are probable.

People with disabilities face many obstacles in adulthood and need to be properly positioned to take them on. With a healthy community and spirit of collaboration, people with disabilities are able to prepare, journey and land in adulthood. This process is a good roadmap for anyone who wants to get his or her future off to a good start.


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