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High School Years


Young people with disabilities will face many of the same challenges and decisions as their peers without disabilities during their teenage years. They may have new choices, like deciding which classes to take, which extra-curricular activities to get involved with, and if they want to try that part-time job. They will be learning about balancing their responsibilities and commitments, with having fun or hanging out with friends. They may be working through issues that could include self-esteem and identity, social media, parties, dating, sexuality, and yes, the peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs. Just like their peers, children with disabilities bring different levels of understanding, experience, skill, and need for support to make these decisions.

It is often the case that at some point, as the young person nears age 18, their family will be told they must seek guardianship. They are told that guardianship will be required for them to continue to be involved in making decisions for their adult child about education, health care, financial matters, and to keep their child safe from danger. Guardianship does not keep your child safe and is not needed for you to take an active role in helping your young adult with the important decisions they will face.

Supported decision-making offers a more natural way to support your loved one. The earlier you begin to practice it, the easier it will be to use once your child is a legal adult. Supported decision-making does not take away their rights or create an artificial legal relationship. It instead aims to put in place the right tools, services, and supports so that people with all kinds of disabilities can be full participants in their own life and community.

Supported decision making for this age group involves clear information given in a way that is understandable to your child. Be open to their questions and concerns. Help them increase responsibility for their own decisions, make age-appropriate rules and, as with any teenager, be patient. We have included tools and information that we hope will help you support teenagers in your life as they learn, have fun, make mistakes, and become adults.