Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
Principles for Youth Engagement
Why Engage Youth?
According to the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, effective youth-adult partnerships based on authentic youth engagement provide many benefits for young people, including:
- Offering opportunities to practice the problem-solving skills they will need in adulthood and strengthen the parts of the brain that drive those skills;
- Building self-esteem and leadership skills; and
- Increasing their influence and personal stake in the community.
The Forum for Youth Investment, a national organization that focuses on getting young people ready for life, also strongly advocates for youth engagement in policies and programs. At the meeting, Thaddeus Ferber shared the Forum’s philosophy on the importance of engaging youth in leadership activities, namely:
- Youth engagement can change the direction of a young person’s life;
- Youth engagement will prepare young people to become future leaders;
- Youth engagement is a young person’s civil right; and
- Youth engagement allows youth to make a difference in improving their school and community.
Guiding Principles for Youth Engagement
Engaging young people in a meaningful way takes thoughtful planning.
For 14 years, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative led many successful efforts to engage young people throughout the nation. They distilled this wealth of knowledge into three key principles:
- Preparation. Young people need to be effectively prepared and empowered to make informed decisions about matters that affect their lives;
- Support. Young people should have customized services and a network of supportive relationships that meet their needs and promote a healthy transition to adulthood; and
- Opportunity. Young people should be provided with an array of life opportunities that promote optimal growth and development. These include experiential learning; healthy risk-taking; and participation in normal everyday activities that contribute to social confidence and positive identity formation.
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