Planning for Your Child’s Future

By: Jessica Oswald, Occupational Therapist

Parents wonder about their children’s futures at a very early age. Questions they ask may include:

  • What will my child be when they grow up?
  • Where will they live?
  • Will they attend post secondary education of some kind?
  • Parents of children with medical diagnoses or disabilities consider many of these same questions, but also find themselves asking:

  • What supports are available if I am not around?
  • What skills are required for independent living?
  • What skills are required for employment?
  • What living options are available?
  • Early transitional planning can help answer some of these difficult questions and potentially reduce some of the anxiety parents feel about their child’s adult future. The goal of transitional planning is to prepare for time at which primary caregivers are no longer available. Federal law requires public schools to begin transitional planning by age 16 for children on an Individual Education Program (IEP), but can begin sooner than that if appropriate.


  • Involving the child in making decisions about the future
  • Creation of a financial plan
  • Preparation for life after high-school
  • Exploration of post secondary education
  • Preparation for independent living (including transportation)
  • Investigation of programs, services, activities, information, and supports in the community
  • Consideration of opportunities for future vocations/internships/employment/careers
  • Adaptation of current therapy goals to meet changing needs/priorities
  • Therapists (Speech, Occupational, Physical, Counseling) help to prepare youth for these life transitions and independent living when possible. Collaborate with families is paramount in determining priorities as the child ages.


  • Self care skills (i.e. brushing teeth, showering, toileting, etc.)
  • Household management skills (i.e. laundry, cleaning, etc.)
  • Money management skills (i.e. getting the correct amount of change, utilizing a debit card, budgeting, etc.)
  • Kitchen safety (i.e. preparing and cooking food including reading a recipe, cutting up ingredients, utilizing cooking appliances, etc.)
  • Community mobility (i.e. safely crossing the street, utilizing community transportation options, etc.)
  • Work related methods of communication (i.e. resume writing, interviews, generating emails, being able to listen to a voicemail and take a message, etc.)
  • Vocabulary and language associated with the workplace (i.e. time clock, uniform, break, etc.)
  • Concepts of time (i.e. knowing when to complete each required work or school task, deadlines, etc.)
  • Appropriate social interactions with peers, customers and co-workers
  • Self advocating and requesting help when necessary
  • Explaining their disability and asking for additional accommodations if/when necessary
  • Social interactions in community settings (i.e. ordering at a restaurant, going bowling, getting a haircut, etc.)
  • Strength and mobility to complete daily tasks (i.e. mowing the lawn, shoveling, sports participation, etc.)
  • Having and maintaining good balance when completing tasks (i.e. standing on 1 leg for getting dressing, tipping head back to shower, safely navigating multi-surface environments, stairs, etc.)
  • Increasing endurance (i.e. vacuuming, household cleaning, folding laundry, working a shift, etc.)
  • Core strength (i.e. driving, seated posture, dressing, etc.)
  • Counseling can also be vital in transitional planning. Youth may require additional support for managing emotions. Families often benefit from counseling in an effort to manage many things at once. Counselors can also be instrumental in helping to identify additional community supports and resources.

    If you’d like more information on transitional planning, please collaborate with your child’s therapist. You may also contact Family Voices of North Dakota at 701-527-2889 or their website: