Transition to Adulthood

Transition to Adulthood

The transition to adult life can create big challenges in the lives of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. It is important to be aware of some of the changes that your family will go through during this process to make transition gradual and less stressful.

Change in Parent Roles

The age at which a child becomes an adult/reaches the age of majority in Manitoba is 18 years. Parents move from making decisions on behalf of their child to helping their adult children make informed decisions through supported decision making. When a child turns 18, the right to consent for services or for sharing personal information shifts from the parent to the adult child. Within the mental health field, this right to consent may also be conferred at the age of 17. Check with your child’s health care providers to learn more.

Supported decision making is when the support network (family, friends, caregivers) encourage an adult to communicate their preferences and decisions. When appropriate, the family may offer advice, support or assistance to help an individual make their best decision. We all need support at times to make decisions and this process should be a natural evolution over the lifespan of your child from childhood through their teen years and into adulthood.

For more information on supported decision making you may find the following resource to be useful:

The Vulnerable Persons Living With a Disability Act, available on the Government of Manitoba website at: http://www.gov.mb.ca/fs/pwd/vpact_decision.html 

Vulnerable Persons Act

A term commonly used to describe adults who have an intellectual disability is a "vulnerable person.” In Manitoba, it is presumed that vulnerable persons over the age of 18 years have the capacity to make decisions for themselves, unless proven otherwise. The Vulnerable Persons Act was developed to promote and protect the rights of adults living with a mental disability who need assistance to meet their basic needs with regard to personal care and/or management of his or her property.

The Act states that:

  • The vulnerable person is able to make their own decisions, unless proven otherwise;
  • The vulnerable person should be encouraged to make their own decisions;
  • The vulnerable person may make decisions with help of a support network;
  • Support networks should assist vulnerable adults in a way that respects their privacy and dignity;
  • If a vulnerable person does not have the capacity to make their own decisions, even with support, a substitute decision maker can be appointed to make decisions on their behalf.

For more information about the Vulnerable Persons Act, please visit:

Change in Planning Process

Before a child turns 18, the planning process is more focused around the family. This is called family-centered planning. Parents/families are the experts as they have the experience with their child and abilities to meet their child’s needs. Family-centered planning works to support the family to meet their child’s needs.

When a child reaches adulthood, the planning process shifts to focus on the adult child. This is called person-centered planning. This planning process supports the person's right to understand all the choices available and to make their own decisions. Person-centered planning strives to provide services and supports to meet the specific needs of the individual.

Please note: Although the planning process changes to focus on the adult child’s needs, many programs will still offer family support as a part of the person-centered planning process.

Transition Planning Process in High School

The document Bridging to Adulthood: A Protocol for Transitioning Students with Exceptional Needs from School to the Community outlines the process for transition planning in high school. It identifies the various planning team members who are responsible for developing and implementing the transition plan. It is important to begin the transition planning process when your child first enters high school (around the age of 14 years) to make transition into the community more gradual and less stressful. This does not mean the plan is formalized and laid out for the whole of their high school life at that point, but when planning their individual education planning goals, consideration should be given to skills needed as they move into adulthood and away from the education system.

As with the Individual Education Plan (IEP), the planning process for transition to adulthood should be a team approach.

The transition planning team may include:

  • The student and their support network
  • School employees that work with student (teachers, principal, school division)
  • Community workers from Manitoba Family Services programs (Children’s disAbility Services, marketABILITIES, Community Living disAbility Services)
  • Community workers from the Regional Health Authorities
  • Community workers from Child and Family Services

To learn more about IEPs, visit our 'Navigating the Educational System' page.

You can learn more by accessing the Bridging to Adulthood Protocol directly at: http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/docs/policy/transition/

Services Available in Adulthood

When your child enters adulthood, there will be many changes to services that are available to them. Many programs and services available to those under 18 years of age end with no corresponding programs available for those over 18. It is important to be aware of the changes in services, and to know what adult services are available in Manitoba when your child is approaching adulthood.

Get more information on services and programs available for adults in the following areas by clicking on the link: