changing needs over timeIf your child has special needs, the transitions between stages of life can be challenging.


Children go through many stages, big and small. As they get older, their needs change, too.  Though it may be hard to think about the future right now, you can prepare your child for these transitions.

Tips for preparing for transition periods:

  • Let your child play an active role in her health care. When your child is younger, explain her disability or illness to her. Make sure she can explain her disability or illness to others. As she gets older, teach specific self-care for her disability or illness, such as managing pain, resting and proper nutrition. Help your child develop a relationship with her doctor. Encourage her to ask questions and participate in appointments.
  • Teach your child basic life and independent living skills. Teach him how to handle money, time management, coping skills and how to access information and services.
  • Introduce responsibility, work and earning money. Assign your child age and ability appropriate chores and tasks at an early age. Consider his interests when looking for training and vocational programs.
  • Record major events in your child’s life. These events can be related to health concerns, family changes, finances or education. Review this journal or book of events periodically and share it with your child at an age appropriate time.
  • Be a good role model. Remember that you and other family members are your child’s most important teachers.

The Adolescent Health Transition Project is a resource for families of adolescents with special health care needs, chronic illnesses, and physical or developmental disabilities. The project is designed to help smooth the transitions from pediatric to adult health care.

Visit the project website at: for more information about helping your child transition through life stages and for a Transition Time Line and Adolescent Autonomy Checklist.