The path to high school graduation, college or employment for children with developmental disabilities starts as early as three years old. The journeys traveled can be daunting, and each family has its own set of circumstances that brings complexity and challenges to their intended plans for their children’s future success.

With the support of organizations like the Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership and the Georgia Inclusive Post-Secondary Consortium, tools such as Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and the leadership and experience of state and local agencies like the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA), parents and children can enjoy success on the road from youth to adulthood.

An IEP is a living document that creates opportunities for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. IEPs serve as the cornerstone of a quality education for children with disabilities, and while they are a major part of your child’s success, securing an IEP does not mean the work is done planning for the future. As your child matures, learns new skills, develops interests and begins considering life goals, the content of their IEP will reflect these changes.

During the early elementary school years, parents should speak with other parents of children with disabilities, share information and gain knowledge from the extensive network of parent mentors around the state to learn best practices and build their parental peer network. Parents can quickly tap in to this community by reaching out to Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership or Parent to Parent of Georgia.

Also, as early as age 14, parents can contact GVRA to start planning for their child’s college life and/or professional career. GVRA counselors guide children in identifying goals for college and/or careers, then coordinate with schools to establish a plan of support. Every plan is individualized with varying details such as training or devices to assist in hearing or seeing.

High school marks the beginning of the time when students and parents should plan initial transition meetings and begin relationship-building with state and local agencies that manage labor, post-secondary education, benefits planning and other services. These resources, along with your child’s IEP team, exist to support your child in taking advantage of every opportunity available to maximize their potential and achieve their additional educational and vocational goals.

Our roadmap gives an overview of the process and when to begin discussions with teachers, administrators and vocational counselors. It is important to know the milestones and be sure schools are working to equip your child with the tools needed to be independent, empowered and successfully employed.

For more information on making the journey from school to career for your child, visit the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities at www.gcdd.org to learn about educational and vocational opportunities available in Georgia.

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