Chicago hospital helps transition special needs teens to adulthood

Growing up is hard, and it can be even more difficult for kids who have special needs.

That’s why La Rabida Children’s Hospital has launched two new programs designed to help its young adults and their parents deal with the challenging transition period between childhood and independence.

The transition programs were inspired by the American Academy of Pediatrics national initiative encouraging assistance for the movement from pediatric to adult care. They both focus on the 16-21 age range.

LAUNCH, which stands for Leading Adolescents to Understanding New Challenges in their Health care, is a four-session program designed for La Rabida patients who are cognitively typically developing but have a chronic health condition.

Young people and their parents attend together, but sessions are broken up based on the topic of discussion. Topics include insurance, employment and employment rights, and the emotional process of letting go. At one session, patients who have previously participated in the program form a panel to discuss their own situations.

ASCEND, which stands for Assistance and Support for Caregivers as they Embark in New health care Directions for their young adults, focuses exclusively on parents of young people who are severely cognitively impaired. It also is a four-session program and focuses on topics like insurance, how to obtain guardianship and schooling issues. ASCEND also provides emotional support and companionship for parents struggling with the transition time.

“It’s very difficult for our families to leave La Rabida, especially those who are very impaired,” says Pam Northrop, Medical Home program manager. “This group really meets a need that helps support them.”

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