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SECTIONS: Letting Go ~ Family Traditions ~ Transition to Adult Health Care and Decision-Making ~ Youth With Special Health Care Needs/Disabilities: Transition to Adult Systems of Care ~ Health Insurance for Young Adults with Disabilities ~ Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid



Mother, father and 3 daughters

Letting Go

When our children are babies we look forward to the first smile, laugh, and word. We encourage them to take each new step. As children approach the teen years we often worry about their new skills. It's one thing to see a toddler start to walk. It's another to drop a teen at the mall with friends, or to hand over the car keys. It may be especially hard for parents of youth with special health care needs to "let go," allow their teens to set their own limits, and have "teen" experiences.

Teens also develop at different rates. It's important to let them figure out how to handle new skills and responsibilities, yet still "be there" to provide help and advice. Youth with special health needs may need unique supports. Your health care provider can refer you to helpful services. Parents learn about services, resources, and supports from each other, from school, and other sources. Share these with your teen's health care provider as part of your parent/provider partnership.


Family Traditions

In many cultures, families celebrate coming of age with special rites and traditions. Help your health care provider learn about your culture, values, and preferences. The provider will be better prepared to talk with your teen about body changes, boy-girl relationships, sexuality, and responsibility for choices about health and wellness. You, or another adult in your family or community, may be the one to talk to your teen about these issues.


Transition to Adult Health Care and Decision-Making

When you and your teen's health care provider work together to ensure your teen receives health services and needed supports, you model the skills he'll need to make health decisions as an adult. Now, help him learn his medical history. This is another skill he will need to become a partner in his own health care.

Teens can "test drive" these skills. Let them take more responsibility for their health care. This is also the time to begin planning for health care transition—the move from pediatric to adult health systems. Families, teens, and current health providers need to work together to ensure teens are ready to manage their own health needs, choose adult providers, and help teens develop new health partnerships. This is especially important for youth with special health needs. Some specialty providers keep their patients. Others will work with you and your teen to transfer care to adult providers, adult hospitals, and adult systems of care.