Why Life on the Edge of the Cliff? Because that’s how so many parents of young people with autism, ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome describe the feeling when their children reach 16 or 18 and children’s support services stop – but the need doesn’t.
I talked to families to find out how it feels to be in those crucial years when school isn’t there any more but no-one’s really clear what could, or should, come next. Most importantly, I talked to young people themselves to find out what they thought about the services and support on offer as they move towards adulthood and independent living. What works well? What doesn’t? What do they need, to be able to live their lives to the full and achieve their potential? I hope this project helps to give them a voice.
Intelligent young people are finding themselves isolated, marginalised and at risk of poverty while their families encounter financial pressures and employability difficulties as they try to make up for the shortfall in support.
The challenges are linked to misunderstandings about the impact of these and similar conditions, inconsistency in provision, and social barriers that reduce opportunities – not only at the point of leaving school, but for the next 10 years and on into adult life. The right support for many in this group doesn’t require huge injections of cash. Often it depends more on listening to what works, so existing resources can be used most effectively.
These are “make or break” years that give young people with these and similar conditions what may be their last and best chance to turn challenging experiences around and get their lives on track.
The question is not whether we can afford to provide the support these young people need. It’s whether we can afford not to.
Tracey Francis is a freelance writer and researcher with extensive experience in communications and children and young people’s policy at national and European levels. She has worked for children and young people’s charities in Scotland since 2002, most recently for Mindroom, a Scottish charity supporting people with learning difficulties and their families. In 2015 she was awarded a Travel Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to research post school experiences of young people and families in three European countries and her report, Life on the Edge of the Cliff, was published in 2016. She is the parent of a 20-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome, a member of the Scottish Transitions Forum thinktank and a Trustee of the Scottish ADHD Coalition.