Life Transitions with Your Child

Children and youth with special health care needs face many changes throughout their lives, such as moves between hospitals, home, schools, work or college, and from child health care to adult health care (see graphic below). Each transition is a chance for your child and family to gain skills that will help you and your child succeed and manage future changes. Subtopics included are:

Transition is a process

young woman stands next to a young man in a wheelchair both wearing graduation cap and gown
The medical home, as a source of comprehensive care, is an ideal place to talk about these issues, and it should help with transition planning throughout your child's life. The more you and your child know about his or her special health care needs, the better prepared you will all be for your child to have as much independence as possible as an adult.

"...Transition is a process, not an event. The actual process should be gradual, occurring in harmony with adolescent and family development. While there is not one current model, whenever it occurs, communication among pediatric and adult providers, parents and youth is critical." (National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities)

This section has two parts:

  • School Transitions
  • Transition to Adulthood

You can find vital information from many starting points, such as the child's age or specific needs. No matter their specific challenges, children, youth, and adults with special health care needs will benefit from a team effort toward making transitions as smooth as possible.

To build a life plan: Start with the end goals in mind

Chart showing ages birth to 22 across the bottom with transition milestones from Early Intervention to Post School Program


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

Health Care Transition Resources for Youth & Young Adults (Got Transition)
A 6-step approach to help individuals gain independent health care skills, prepare for an adult model of care, and transfer to new providers; provided by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health.

Choices - A comprehensive transition guide for families (UPC) (PDF Document)
A guide from the Utah Parent Center Transition University - Learn to navigate Supported Decision-Making, alternatives to guardianship, SSI / SSDI, Medicaid, ABLE Accounts, financial & estate planning, Person-Centered Planning, and health care

Successful Transitions for Youth with Disabilities (UPC) (PDF Document)
A Guide from the Utah Parent Center Transition University-Designed for youth 14 & up to help you find your path and live your best life!

Respecting the Young Adult Video (UISP)
An 8-minute video of a panel discussion of young adults with special healthcare needs offering their perspectives to healthcare providers to improve sensitivity; Utah Integrated Services Medical Home Project.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: July 2008; last update/revision: August 2023
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Gina Pola-Money
Authoring history
2011: first version: Alfred N. Romeo, RN, PhDR
AAuthor; CAContributing Author; SASenior Author; RReviewer