Melanie Smart is a research associate at Sunfield School, Worcestershire, and a trainee clinical psychologist. In this article, she reports the results of a small-scale survey which looked at the views of 17 parents whose children with severe and/or complex learning difficulties had made the transition from a residential special school to an adult placement. Pa rents were asked their retrospective views on the transition planning process; their own involvement; and how the adult placement met the needs of their children.
Melanie Smart's findings indicate that the majority of parents were very much involved in the planning process, although they reported struggling to get consistency of approach and basic information. The young people themselves were found to be marginalised in the planning process, with very few being involved in any decision making. Most parents were happy with the eventual placement, but those who had concerns were still pushing for basic services and care. Of those who had suffered placement breakdowns, the major factor was lack of consistency of approach and failure to use prior information about the child.
This survey shows that parents and their learning disabled children experience difficulties in the transition process. There seems to be a distinct lack of person-centred planning, particularly with this user group, by both child and adult services. Parents are vital to this type of planning approach, particularly when the young people themselves cannot voice their needs or advocate their own rights to quality service provision. Melanie Smart argues that parents need access to better quality information and reassurance that their children will receive the services they deserve as young adults. The various agencies, she asserts, need to work together to ensure that the transition process is effective.