Ep. 47: Helping Students Transition to Adulthood with Dr. Gwennyth Palafox

Sep 14, 2021 | 0 comments

I love hearing from previous clients and students who have entered or are entering adulthood. But sometimes, they’re reaching out for assistance because they have found that they aren’t as prepared for this transition as they might have thought. The transition to adulthood can be scary for a lot of families but is especially overwhelming for those with disabilities and neurodiversities. When should you start planning? What should you start planning for? How do you plan for this transition? There are seemingly endless questions, but today’s guest not only provides great information in this episode, but she also has developed a program to help guide families through this time to ensure happy and healthy adults.

Dr. Gwen Palafox joins us today and you can hear her passion on this subject. She walks us through why this transition is overwhelming for many, what the common mistakes are in planning for adulthood, and what we can do about it. She gives insight into what an adolescent with neurodiversity is facing and why planning early can give them the best chances at living a happy adult life doing what they envision themselves doing.


Show Notes:

[2:05] – Welcome to the show, Dr. Gwen!

[3:32] – Transition to adulthood for those with neurodiversities takes a lot of intentional planning because of unlimited paths to take after school.

[4:48] – The legal changes as a teen becomes an adult are intimidating as well.

[6:20] – When to start planning for adulthood transition depends on the severity of the disability. She explains what this might look like.

[7:54] – Many times, parents aren’t sure what to prepare their children for and the schools do minimal preparation.

[9:19] – Health, safety, and happiness are the keys to a productive and successful adult. What does that look like for your child?

[10:13] – Doing things that are interesting and meaningful for someone can go a long way for those with attention difficulties.

[11:24] – Dr. Gwen gives an example of a transition program and what it might look like.

[12:39] – Cultural and family values are often missed in this transition as well.

[14:01] – When social emotional skills are not developed well, we begin to chase behavioral and emotional stability.

[15:25] – Mental health is a huge consideration when planning for this transition.

[16:53] – A family’s ability to organize and plan ahead makes a difference.

[18:30] – Parents are the experts on their children but may struggle with describing certain things about their vision for them.

[20:00] – Dr. Gwen starts this planning with a formal process.

[22:46] – More time and repetition is needed for many with neurodiversity. What skills can they work on to prepare for adulthood?

[24:38] – For many years, children and adolescents have been planned for but are not involved in planning for their own life. Dr. Gwen says that including them is critical.

[27:19] – If self-awareness is not developed, an individual won’t know when they need help.

[28:49] – When we don’t have any say in things, we develop anxiety and depression.

[30:12] – There are many ways to use one’s voice but using it in this transition is critical.

[32:01] – Dr. Gwen describes the problems she saw during transition and what she knew was missing.

[34:59] – You have to know all the skills required for adulthood but they have not been compiled into a resource.

[36:50] – Dr. Gwen explains why she does not write prompted goals.

[38:18] – Dr. Gwen’s transition program has parents determining these skills alongside their adolescent. This inventory provides a personalized curriculum.

[40:18] – Now with this system, parents have a guide and something to bring to IEP meetings in order to get more support for this transition.

[43:01] – Ultimately, we need to focus on the things that are going to make them healthy and happy.


About Our Guest:

Dr. Gwen is a licensed psychologist who has been actively changing the lives of individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities for over two decades. She is laser-focused on promoting the happiness and wellbeing of disabled teens and adults and is a fierce ally of disabled individuals and their families. Dr. Gwen has shared her expertise in local and global workshops, at a TEDx event, as an expert witness, and in collaboration with other engaged and radically awesome professionals. Her clients are wonderfully complex, unique, and awesome. She says that out-of-the-box thinking, creativity, grit, and compassion are some of the best tools that she has.

Connect with Dr. Gwen Palafox:

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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.