Currently in the United States, there are approximately 10.2 million people with special healthcare needs (SHCN) under 19 years of age. Each year, 750,000 adolescents with SHNC cross into adulthood. Healthcare transition – the process of moving from pediatric medicine to adult-oriented medicine – is a necessary process for these youth.
The transition from pediatric to adult healthcare coincides with the transition to adulthood. During this stage of development, adolescents and young adults experience leaving high school, starting work, attending a vocational school or college, joining a branch of the military, living away from the parental home, setting up an independent home, dating and for some, finding a spouse or partner and eventually beginning a family. This stage also involves accepting more responsibilities for oneself, making independent decisions and becoming financially independent. For young adults without disabilities, it is a time of extraordinary changes, both for the young adult and their family.
Many young adults with disabilities and SHCN might not attend post-secondary education, live independently or have a spouse, partner or family of their own. Many young adults with disabilities are not able to make decisions without assistance or to become financially independent. Whatever degree of independence they do achieve, will require more planning, more support from their families and more involvement with social services systems. For their parents, it may be the first time they confront the need for long-term planning and lifelong supports.
ACHIEVA’s Disability Healthcare Initiative, with continued support of the FISA Foundation, wrote Transition from Pediatrics to Adult Medical Systems for Young Adults with Disabilities or Special Healthcare Needs in March 2014, proposing a framework of solutions to help with healthcare transition.