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Navigating Transition for Graduating Special Needs Students

Where to look for expert care, continued structure and affordable options


High school graduation is a time for celebration, but it is also a time of transition that affects the entire family. With a new routine, many individuals with IDD and their families find it difficult to adjust to the new lifestyle. Many will find that they will require new resources to assist with care, but where does the journey begin?

“For families with special needs children, high school graduation can be an eye-opener as they try to plan next steps for their children,” said Rachel Jelks, executive director and founder of Team Abilities. “Even though their child may be able to stay in the school system for a few years longer, exiting at 21 years of age, the transition is inevitable.”

There are a few things to know before parents begin to search out day habilitation services and perhaps even community living options.

First to consider is level of care/level of need. Not all agencies will take all levels of care. If one’s special needs child is higher functioning, the placement options are readily available; however, if children have toileting needs, are nonverbal, are wheelchair-bound, have special feeding needs or is in need of total dependent care, the options can be more obscure.

Secondly, the structure of the day program is important, especially for those leaving the high-school environment which can be very structured. Some agencies have an organized structure and classes to keep students with special needs engaged. Other agencies may have a more relaxed environment with a non-structured environment.

“We know that structure is very important in our special needs community,” said Jelks. “This is why our classes are structured in format, as well as using visual cues to let students know what is coming up next in their day. Team also features cooking classes, science experiments and art classes to continue to elevate the engagement with the student and we take numerous field trips during the month to the delight of our students.”

Third to take into account are the financial obligations. If one is on the HCS Waiver then options run more available for care. For private pay, the daily day habilitation fee can run $50 per day, but not all agencies are flexible where one’s child can attend just a few days a week.

“We turn no one away,” said Jelks. “It doesn’t matter the level of care, the level of need, behavior issues or if there is the need for total dependent care, we are going to provide excellent services for them and still engage them socially. The special needs community is only expanding and we are ready to serve our community well with expert care and loving-kindness.”

Team Abilities currently offer two Day Habilitation locations: 1029 Pruitt Road in Spring and 15775 Bammel Village Road off FM1960 in Houston. The FM1960 location offer Metro Lift for transportation convenience. They also offer 13 Community Living homes for those looking for a long-term solution for their loved ones.

Team Abilities serves low- to high-functioning adults with special needs thru Day Habilitation programs & Community Living care. For more information, call Donna at 832-790-2879 or go to

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