Young adults with special healthcare needs are transitioning from pediatric physicians to adult physicians every day across the country. Sometimes this process can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.
Successful transition to adult services for youth with special health care needs should start early. Youth and their families should ideally begin planning before the age of 14.
Pediatric clinic settings offer parents support and resources to navigate services in which can be carried over to adulthood with the right coordination of care. The planning should cater to the young adult, his or her specific age, and their family. However, it should be noted that age alone should not determine the time and extent for transition.
The young adult is embarking on many transitions at this point in their life (graduating from high school, college and new to the workforce) and so this transition must be done in a meaningful, effective way. Families and caregivers can influence the success of transition by introducing the process of transition through their educational plan in high school and in clinic settings. Ensure the young adult is part of the decision making team and not only is he or she aware of what is being discussed, but plays an active role. After all, they are learning important adult decision making skills when they participate in these meetings.
Successful and meaningful transition services are the result of careful planning. The transition should improve the ability for youth to advocate for themselves by knowing their diagnoses and the names of their medications, but also to manage their own health while effectively using the health services. These health services will develop healthy habits in everyday life such as adequate sleep, diet, hygiene and to be a self-advocate. With the help of health diaries, (all clinic information disclosed to the patient over the years) transition would be less challenging for youth with special health care needs. With the proper tools and resources, families and youth can transition from pediatric care to adult care in an effective way that leads to better outcomes for that young adult.
As a parent myself, I know that letting go and allowing our son or daughter to start making their own decisions about their life is somewhat frightening, but with careful planning the transition can be successful, and ultimately it will allow our young adults to lead a more empowered life!
Click HERE for more information and resources on transition for families and youth.
Children’s Special Health Services Parent Liaison, Region 9