How to transition from high school to adulthood for people with disability

Transitioning from high school to adulthood can be a challenging time. You may be wondering ‘what’s next?’. For people with disability, ‘what’s next’ is not always clear. School provides a structured environment, often with substantial support, but these supports may end when you finish school.

We understand the transition from high school to adulthood is different for people with disability so we’ve created this handy blog of tips for school leavers with disability. If you’re a parent who is nervous about your child leaving school, we’ve got you covered with ‘Things I wish someone had told me before my child with a disability graduated high school’.

We also invest in the Endeavour Foundation Disability Research Fund which provides grants to projects that improve the health, wellbeing, and quality of life for people with disability. The 2018 recipient focused on what finishing school is like for youth with disability. The research found that changes to current processes are needed, such as improved planning, inclusion of decision making and goal setting. For insights of the findings, read the summary of findings here.

Consider how change makes you feel

Finishing school is a big deal and you may start to experience a lot of emotions all at once. Before you start planning or thinking about the future, take some time to check-in with yourself. How does change make you feel? If the idea of change peaks your anxiety, you should consider this in your planning. Talk to your friends, family, and support people about how change impacts you as your support network plays an essential role in helping you navigate change. You can set up regular check-ins as you go through the transition period.

Start planning early

To make the transition from high school to adulthood smoother, it’s helpful to start planning early. The best time to start planning depends on your circumstances but most people start the planning stage in secondary school. This will give you plenty of time to identify the skills you need for development and support services required. It is best to work with your school to identify where you’re at and what you need to learn before finishing school.

Helpful tip: Search for planning resources online, the NDIS and Education Queensland have resources available.

Identify your strengths and areas for improvement

Before you start planning, it’s useful to start by writing down your current skills. You can do this with a support worker, teacher or family member. Once you know your strengths, you can identify areas where you need to focus your development.

This is important for goal setting, as it can help you decide which skills you need to learn, practise, or improve on, and where you might need support. You can compare these with the skills that you need to meet their goals.

Helpful tip: Start looking for services providers who align with your wants and needs while you’re still in school.

Think about your short-term and long-term goals

Your short-term and long-term goals will determine what you focus on in your first few years after school. Everyone is different so focus on what will make you happy. If you need more details on goal setting, we have a blog about setting goals.

Your goals will form the basis of your transition plan. Your transition plan is about you and your future, so you have the choice and control of what you want to focus on. Everyone’s transition plan is different, but all transition plans should cover:

  • work
  • independent living
  • community.

Helpful tip: Think about who you want on your NDIS team. They can support you to develop your transition plan and make it happen.


If you think you want to work, you can consider what kinds of jobs might suit your interests and skills. For example, if you love animals and are good with them, you may be able to get a job as a veterinary assistant or dog walker.

For all school leavers, transitioning to work is a big step. Endeavour Foundation’s work experience program is a great way to develop skills, make new friends and get job ready. In partnership with your school, we’ll create a tailored program for you. This means you will experience a range of work tasks, learn new skills and get job ready before you leave school. You’ll also be supported and guided by mentors and supervisors in a safe environment.

Helpful tip: You can work with your school and connect with Endeavour Foundation to bring your transition plan to life.

Independent living

Young people with disability can live independently in a variety of ways. For example, they may be able to live:

Your transition plan should include your goals for independent living. It’s okay if independent living is a long-term plan. Your transition plan is as individual as you are. Your plan should also cover the skills you need to live independently. These may include self-care skills, like cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, shopping, managing time, using public transport, and managing finances.

Helpful tip: If moving out of home is a long-term goal for you, you do not need to wait to develop independent living skills, Dianne share’s her top tips for independence at home.


Transition plans should include ideas for maintaining friendships, meeting new people and taking part in social and community activities that you enjoy such as going to the cinema or exercise classes. These activities can help you build community connections. You may want to continue with social, recreational or community activities that you enjoyed at school, or try something new.

As part of your planning, it’s a good idea to look into local services for people with disability. Services like Learning and Lifestyle hubs help with routine activities, like grocery shopping, or groups that organise social outings, like going to see a movie with other adults.

Helpful tip: If you want one-on-one support services like Individualised Support focus on you and your individual goals.

As you move through high school and start to wonder ‘what’s next?’, it’s time to start planning! Early planning is so important to ensuring a smooth transition from school life to the start of adulthood. You will identify your goals and dreams, the steps you need to take to achieve them and where you want to work, live and how you stay connected to the community.