Building the Team with Your Teen

An OSERS guest blog by Debra Jennings

Deborah Jennings

Debra Jennings is the Project Director for the Center for Parent Information and Resources

When teenagers reach their age of majority, a host of changes can and most likely will take place. For one, reaching the age of majority means that the young person is now considered an adult. In most states, this happens at age 18. The youth now has the same rights as other adults do, including the right to vote, marry, enter into contracts, and make decisions about his or her education, healthcare, and finances. These are big changes, for both the young person and his or her parents. Is everybody ready? Indeed, how do you get ready, especially when the youth has a disability that affects decision making?

The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) is pleased to connect you with a new series of parent briefs on this very important subject. The series starts with Getting Ready for When Your Teen Reaches the Age of Majority: A Parent’s Guide and continues with tip sheets on getting ready for:

Why is age of majority such an important issue?

Because, bottom line, the age of majority happens whether the teenager is “ready” or not. And it happens whether parents are ready or not! That’s why it’s a good idea for parents to:

  • Take advantage of their child’s growing years (especially ages 10–14) to build skills needed in the future.
  • Connect with their state’s Parent Center as their first stop for information and resources about disability issues in general and transition planning in particular.
  • Foster a team approach that involves their son or daughter.
  • Lay a solid foundation through discussions, guided support and decision-making, respect, and opportunities for their son or daughter to learn the basic skills that an adult needs.

The Age of Majority series offers parents suggestions for doing just that. We’d like to elaborate for a moment on three of these four key suggestions.

1—Start early

Building confidence and decision-making skills takes time and practice. So it’s definitely savvy for parents and educators to begin early to prepare the young person with a disability for the eventuality of reaching the age of majority. Fortunately, there are resources available to help families and schools, many of which are noted in the Age of Majority series.

2—Connect with the state Parent Center

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) funds a powerful network of Parent Centers (at least one per state) to inform and train parents of children with disabilities so that they have a reliable place to learn about their child’s disability, their rights under the law, and resources in their community, state, and nation. Parent Centers are an excellent source of information about transition planning, offering parent guides, webinars, training workshops, and the like to support parents and youth in preparing for life after high school.

Visit the CPIR Hub to find the Parent Center(s) for your state.

3—Foster a team approach

The Age of Majority series strongly recommends taking a team approach:

  1. to prepare a young person for reaching the age of majority, and
  2. to provide a network of support once adulthood is reached.

How much support a young person might need to live as independently as possible will vary from person to person. But there are many types of support available, from family and friends, to community agencies, to in-home services, and these can be matched to the needs of the individual. The tip sheets include many examples.

To hear an especially evocative and insightful description of how building such a team can make all the difference in the world to the adult life of a son with significant disabilities, take 5 minutes and listen to Ann Turnbull on the subject. You won’t be sorry you did.

In sum

Growing up is natural, it’s inevitable, and it’s exciting. We hope that the Age of Majority tip sheets will help parents and their young person get ready. May all our sons and daughters go forth, make their foolish mistakes despite our warnings, enjoy their triumphs, ask for our help when they need it, and build their lives as independently and satisfyingly as possible.

How the tip sheets were developed

The Age of Majority series was developed in collaboration between three OSEP-funded centers: the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC), the National Post-School Outcomes Center (NPSO, link after 12/2015), and the Center for Parent Information and Resources. We all are especially pleased that Parent Centers were involved in reviewing each tip sheet and helping to shape the tone and content of the series.

Deborah Jennings
Posted by
Project Director, Center for Parent Information and Resources