Let's make it easier for children with additional needs to '¨grow up

Handling change in life can be difficult. Planned and unplanned changes happen all the time, like bereavement, moving house, starting a new job or education placement. These changes can be amongst the most challenging experiences.

Scott Richardson- Read, ARC Scotlands Policy and Development worker.

Yet, for young people who have additional needs (such as disability, autism, mental health difficulties or those who are care experienced) these times of changes can be even more complicated. The term “transition” is used to describe the period when young people develop from children to young adults.

This is not a single event, like leaving school, but a part of growing up that unfolds over several years. During this period young people will experience many significant changes in their lives. Transitions also impact on the families and others who care for the young person.

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Young people with additional support needs hope for the same things as other young people: to have a voice and a social life, and to be involved as active, valued citizens. Young people with additional needs can need extra support during transition, without which there is a risk that young 
people can fall through the gaps in services.

To guide people through the transition process the Scottish Transitions Forum has developed the Principles of Good Transitions 3. The forum launched the publication on the 16th January at the Scottish Strategy for Autism 5th Annual Conference with support from Maureen Watt, Minister for Mental Health.

The document is a result of extensive consultation involving young people, those who care for them, policy makers, and professionals from across statutory and third sectors. The Scottish Transitions Forum recognises that transitions occur across different areas at the same time, including education, employment, health and social care, and welfare. The Principles of Good Transitions 3 provides a framework and an approach to transitions that can be shared by all professionals at strategic practitioner and operational level. The guidance also helps to support young people and those who care for them in this process.

The Principles of Good Transitions are as follows: Planning and decision making should be carried out in a person-centred way

Support should be co-ordinated across all services

Planning should start early and continue up to age 25

All young people should get the support they need

Young people, parents and carers must have access to the information they need

Families and carers need support

A continued focus on transitions across Scotland

It is by working together in a transparent and coordinated way, with young people and their families at the heart of the planning process, that we can better support young people with additional needs to reach their full potential.

In addition, there needs to be accountability across all services involved. We are hopeful that recent changes in legislation should help embed this in services across Scotland.

The Scottish Transitions Forum provides up-to-date information regarding developments in policy and practice impacting on transitions to ensure the best support is possible.

Over 60 organisations, national bodies and the Scottish Governement have endorsed the Principles of Good Transitions 3. The principles are already being used to improve transitions for young people with additional support needs across Scotland.

Part of the promotion of the Principles of Good Transitions 3 and the importance of good transitions for young people with additional needs is a travelling photography exhibition. You can see it at various venues across Scotland over the coming year.

Scott Richardson-Read is ARC 
Scotland’s Policy and Development worker.