Article Summary #17: Review of Transition Planning Tools for Youth with FASD

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This Article Summary is part of our CanFASD Connect Top Articles Summary Series. Over the next several months, we will be bringing you summaries of all the recent research papers from our list of the Top FASD Articles of 2019. This is an overview of a recent research paper called State-of-the-Art Review of Transition Planning Tools for Youth with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Canada


Individuals with FASD will need supports throughout their lifetime in order to succeed. However, there is very little research on how to support individuals who are leaving adolescent care and transitioning to adult services. Transition planning is a process that can support youth transitioning to adulthood. Transition planning aims to assist youth and families by providing information, service referrals, and planning for the future. The transition plan should:

  • reflect the youth’s vision and goals for the future;
  • focus on the proactive shift from child to adult services;
  • identify and build upon the youth’s strengths and natural support systems;
  • promote the greatest level of independence possible and inclusion within their community;
  • promote self-determination;
  • identify and address the needs of both the youth and their family during the transition period; and
  • prepare for necessary services and supports to be in place when the youth turns 18.

However, very few youths with FASD have a transition plan in place. It is unclear which transition planning tools are most beneficial and what barriers there are to the transition planning process.

The researchers of this study reviewed the literature on transition planning processes for youth with FASD across Canada to determine the strengths and challenges of the existing tools and provide some recommendations for families to successfully navigate the transition from youth to adulthood.

Main Findings:

Several Canadian provinces have transition planning tools available. Some are FASD-specific, while others address developmental disabilities more broadly. The researchers identified six key factors for successful transitions to adulthood:

  1. Transition planning should be conducted. It is necessary to support the transition to adulthood.
  2. Transition planning should start early. Recommendations vary from pre-teen to high-school years.
  3. A transition plan timeline should be created and followed. It should involve specific step-by-step and time-sensitive tasks.
  4. There should be a designated transition plan coordinator. This can be a caregiver or staff member, anyone that the youth and their parents feel comfortable with. They are responsible for starting the process, ensuring collaborative effort, monitoring implementation, linking all resources together, and ensuring that the plan addresses the unique needs of the youth.
  5. The voices of the youth with FASD need to be included in the transition planning process. Include the youth in the planning of their transitions and decision-making. The goals identified should reflect the wishes and dreams of the youth and should be realistic and attainable.
  6. The transition planning process requires a multi-dimensional perspective. The transition plan should address a number of key focus areas, including income, employment, life skills, health services, housing, financial management, positive social lives, and supportive caregivers, and crisis response.
  • Transition team members should be aware of the life circumstances of each youth with FASD and adapt their transition plans based on these circumstances.
  • A specific, nation-wide strategy is needed that outlines a set of consistent transition planning recommendations to support youth across Canada transitioning to adulthood.
  • Transition plans need to be individualized to each person with FASD to focus on their unique strengths and challenges.
  • More research is needed to understand how often transition planning tools are used to support youth with FASD; to compare outcomes of youth with use transition plans and youth without; and to understand the experiences of youth with FASD throughout their transition process.
Take-home message:

Youth with FASD deserve support in the transition from adolescence to adulthood. There are several tools available to assist with creating a plan for the transition. Although there is little research evaluating these plans, there is an agreement that all plans should be person-centered, and strengths-based.

Authors: Kelly D. Coons-Harding, Anna Azulai, and Audrey McFarlane

Journal: Journal on Developmental Disabilities

Date: November 2019

Read the full article

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