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Transition to adulthood is a process for all students, regardless of the path taken. It is essential that students and their families prepare for and have a plan in place to guide them through this time in their life. Active participation in the transition planning process and encouraging independence through teaching advocacy skills is essential. Parents are the driving force in their child’s education and advocacy by attending IEP or 504 meetings, parent-teacher conferences, audiological evaluations, etc. As the student becomes a young adult, they must be willing and responsible for learning self-advocacy, actively participate in meetings, and understand their civil rights and laws that protect them.

This can be a challenging time for both parents and students. It is essential that students and their families begin transition planning early and have a plan in place to guide them into adulthood. Begin thinking about your student’s future now, their long-term goals and the services and supports needed to meet those goals. Do not expect school personnel to make long-term plans for your student. Make sure to keep your student involved in the planning for their future goals and transition to independence and adulthood.

Transition to Adulthood is a Team Approach

Planning for a student’s transition to adulthood is a team process that involves the student, teachers, parents or guardians, school counselors, vocational rehabilitation counselors and other service providers, if applicable. It is complex and will be individualized for the student, and should encourage independence and self-advocacy. Depending on the support level at school, the teams may be formal or informal. The transition team can review the student’s strengths and needs in academics and extracurricular activities. These discussions can assist in identifying activities that develop independent living, employment skills, and postsecondary education and training.

The Parent’s Role in the Transition Process

Your student’s participation in the transition process is essential for their future success. It is important that you encourage your student learn to independently make choices on the accommodations they need, and ensure that they are provided. Promote them to advocate for themselves, research their potential career goals and gain more independence at home and at school. Help them understand how hearing loss may impact future employment and/or career choices.

Your student needs to advocate for themselves at home, in school, at work, and in their community. Self-advocacy skills can be learned through direct instruction and modeling of these skills. Create opportunities for them to speak about their hearing loss and to advocate for themselves. Teach them how to read their audiogram and understand their hearing loss diagnosis. Praise all efforts of self-advocacy and problem solving, and discuss what to do in emergency situations. Have faith in your student to take ownership of who they are and how to express themselves as they become a young adult.

The Student’s Role in the Transition Process

Whether a student plans to go on to college or enter the workforce upon graduation, self-advocacy skills are essential to future success. It is an important for the student to understand their hearing loss diagnosis and how it may impact future goals into adulthood. They should be able to explain their hearing loss to others and identify the assistive technology that helps them best communicate. They need to actively participate in all school meetings and not be afraid to ask questions. The student can create a folder/notebook of relevant information and make a list of their strengths, interests, and future goals. They should seek out opportunities to meet other students with hearing loss and learn more about disability rights laws: IDEA, ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Vocational Rehabilitation

When a student is thinking about obtaining employment, a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor can be assigned to determine eligibility for support and services. Medical, psychological, situational and vocational assessments and evaluations may be given in order to develop goals and identify needs. The VR counselor and the student will create an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). This plan will include vocational goals and the services needed to reach the goals; an employment objective that matches resources, priorities, concerns, student’s strengths, abilities and capabilities; and scheduled monitored progress towards vocational goals.

Since this is a team approach, your student will have the opportunity to make informed decisions when selecting employment outcome/goals, services needed through VR, service providers and other related components of the IPE. The IPE becomes part of the high school IEP transition plan, if applicable. Contact the VR agency in your area to help determine the best employment goal and training for your student based on their skills and interests. They may assist in job seeking skills, career training, job placement and in determining appropriate accommodations.

College/University programs

There are many considerations to be made by the college-bound student. Whether pursuing a vocational training program within a community college curriculum, or degree from a university, the student should research and tour colleges that are being considered. It is helpful to talk with the Disability Service Office Staff of potential programs. Identify and submit financial aid and scholarships applications; there are several scholarships designated specifically for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

According to the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), all public colleges and universities must ensure that students with a diagnosed disability have equal access to all activities, regardless of funding. A college student with a hearing loss has the right to equal access to their instruction and learning environment as long as it does not change the basic requirements of a course or curriculum. At the start of the freshman year, contact the Disability Service Office at the school for support. Request accommodations for all of the courses and dorm room. Parents are not allowed access to their student’s records once they turn 18 without written permission from the student. It is the college student’s responsibility to advocate for themselves.

Students must talk with professors about their hearing loss and how it impacts their listening and learning in the classroom. They will need to let professors know the best area to sit in the classroom/lecture hall. An agreed upon signal between the student and the professor may need to be decided on for requesting information to be repeated or rephrased as well as a direct conversation about the professors’ office hours to further explain lectures. The student can request accommodations for instruction. This may include assistive listening devices, communication access realtime transcription (CART), interpreters, transliterators, note takers, video captioning, and more. There may also be accommodations for their housing/dorm room, such as a vibrating alarm clock, flashing doorbell, amplified telephone, visual smoke alarm, and a weather alert system.


Regardless of when the student enters the workforce, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities and ensure an equal opportunity to work. The ADA also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee. It is not required to disclose the hearing loss during the interview process for employment. However, it is important to share information about the hearing loss if specific accommodations are required during the interview process to have optimal communication.

During the interview process with a potential employer, the applicant should discuss their strengths related to the position that they are applying for. Share any past work experience or volunteer work related to the position. Consider sharing information about the hearing loss: type, degree, the assistive technology that will assist in performance. Let them know the accommodations that have proven to be beneficial in school and at home.

Once hired, the employee should be prepared to speak up for their needs and understand their rights. Self-advocacy skills are necessary for success in the workplace. Do not be afraid to ask questions and be aware of all the job responsibilities, and the accommodations needed to perform those duties. There are many possible accommodations for the employee in the workplace depending, on the position and job responsibilities. Obtain strategic seating for optimal hearing and avoid background noise. Ask colleagues and supervisors to have face to face conversations and to obtain attention prior to speaking. Request the speaker to repeat, rephrase or speak slower and provide information in writing, if needed. Use assistive technology, interpreters or transliterators, when appropriate and remember to self-advocate to ensure communication and job success. Contact the Human Resources Department representative for support, if needed.


Some families may need to consider guardianship for their student, which means obtaining the legal authority to make decisions for another person. At age 18, a student becomes a young adult and is expected to make decisions about all aspects of their life (medical treatment, finances, etc.). When a young adult is unable to make such decisions, a petition to the court will need to be filed for guardianship in the county of residence. Contact your state’s Protection and Advocacy group for Disabilities for more information.

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