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Next steps at 18 – Moving from education to employment, additional training or higher education


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A guide for young adults who have additional support needs - Introduction

Leaving compulsory education and training at age 18 is an exciting time and can bring lots of new opportunities and increased independence. However, it may also be a stressful time, particularly for those young people with additional needs. You may be worried about getting the right support during the next phase of your life, whether that is at university, college or from your employer. This booklet aims to provide some guidance and handy tips for this transition.

Who can help?

  • careers advisors (e.g. Careers South West)
  • Human Resources (HR) department of your employer
  • student support service at college / university
  • job centre
  • parents, family and friends

What do I do next?

If you have no idea what you want to do when you leave further education or training, do not panic! This can be a big decision and there are lots of people around who can help you decide what to do. Generally speaking, the earlier you start planning for your next step, the easier everything should be. You are likely to already have an idea of what you want to do next and you should be considering this throughout your time at college/training.

Here are some Top Tips to consider:

  1. Talk to someone. Talk to a variety of trusted adults and let them know if you are finding it hard to decide what to do. You could talk to your parents/carers and you should tell someone in your current setting, for example your Tutor, support worker or the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo). It is also important you have spoken to an independent careers advisor and you should ask your setting for this if necessary.
  2. Research your options. Make sure you know all of your options and have considered multiple possibilities- this is a good idea even if you are sure what you want to do. Adults can help you consider these and answer questions you may have.
    If you are considering going to university, plan a visit and gain a better idea of what life would be like there. Visit the website and talk to current students to find out more information.
    If you are interested in employment, ensure you plan work experiences and gain a good understanding of what various jobs are like before choosing something specifically.
  3. Choose what is right for you. Talk to your friends about what they are doing, but make sure that you choose what is right for you. Choosing a course or setting because a friend is doing the same thing is not a good idea – choose something you are interested in and that links to your strengths.

When choosing your next steps, it is important that your choice links to your future aspirations. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are my skills and strengths? How can these skills be used and developed during my next stage of life?
  • What are my interests? How can I make sure that I choose something that will interest and motivate me?
  • What do I want to be doing when I’m 21? Or 25? How can my next step lead me closer to my goals and aspirations?

What if I have additional support needs or a disability?

Although leaving college or training can be a challenging time for all young people, students who need additional support may be particularly worried about the transition. This could be for lots of reasons, for example due to concerns regarding mental health or emotional wellbeing. Some young people may have an identified difficulty such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), a sensory/physical difficulty or a learning difficulty.

Whatever the nature of your difficulties it is important to plan in advance and share information with your future setting. This will mean that they can make sure any support you require is in place quickly. This might include:

  • Making reasonable adjustments and adaptations to the environment where you will be learning/working
  • Making sure that key people are aware of your additional support needs (e.g. tutors, line managers). This means a plan can be put in place that means you are treated fairly and appropriately
  • Arranging for further assessment or accessing more specialist services to offer additional support

Whether you are going to university or into work, good communication can make a real difference in ensuring you gain the support you need.

Remember: Employers or education/training providers can only give you additional support if you let them know about your difficulties and support needs.

Mental health and emotional wellbeing

If you experience difficulties with your mental health, it is good to be open and honest about this with your Further Education/Training provider and ask them for advice about how you could be supported over your transition. If you have healthcare or mental health professionals involved with your care, you should also discuss with them your plans and aspirations as early as possible.

University or Further Education/Training

Going to university or doing additional training can be a challenging time and this can be anxiety provoking. It is important that you consider what support will be available for you in advance so you can plan and feel confident that you will be well supported. Most universities have mental health specialists and departments that are set up to support students. To find out more information, you could visit the website of the setting, make a phone call to the university or ask questions during your visit. Although you may not want to share full details about your personal experiences/difficulties (this is totally understandable), sharing information is a way of accessing support that can help you.

There is a law that means that all organisations need to make reasonable adjustments for those identified as having a disability to ensure they are treated fairly. Your difficulties should be taken into account and it is important that you talk to someone about the type of help you may need.


If you decide to talk to your employer about your mental health difficulties, then it is important to consider how to do this. It can be helpful to have a letter from your doctor that can help you explain and it may be that you choose to focus on the impact it will have in the workplace, rather than going into lots of detail. Take some time to consider the following:

  • What has helped you in the past and how can you talk to your employer about what reasonable adjustments would support you?
  • What makes you feel worse and how can you let your employer know?
  • Who is the best person to talk to? You may wish to speak to the Human Resources (HR) Department initially for further advice.

Mental health support can also be accessed through:

  • Talking to your GP or healthcare professional
  • Devon Depression and Anxiety Services (self-refer at
  • Mind and Young Minds are two charities who offer advice and support for people experiencing mental health needs. There is lots of information on their websites about different conditions and possible help that is available (see and

Difficulties with learning

If you have struggled with learning, for example with reading and writing then you may be concerned about getting the right support as you move away from your current setting. Whether you are going to further study or getting a job, it is important to talk to someone who can help you and to plan in advance.

Support in Higher Education or further training

One of the aspects of Higher Education which young people have told us they worry about, is knowing how they will manage with the required reading and writing. If you have had help with these areas in the past, or you feel you need help, it is important you raise this with someone in your current setting (e.g. your tutor, mentor or the SENCo). This should be discussed and considered before the transition – try and share information about yourself as early as possible so that support can be put in place for when you start, e.g. previous reports that have been completed about you.

Universities may not recognise previous assessments that you have had and they may recommend you have an assessment to identify the nature of any learning difficulty and how this can be best supported. Lots of students delay doing this when they start university and this can lead to them struggling and missing out on needed support. To avoid this and make sure support is activated promptly, do some research into the University support centre and contact them to ask advice about what you can do and when. Help which you may receive includes:

  • Having extra time to complete exams and being able to use a computer in exams
  • Having specialist tutoring to help you develop study skills, e.g. essay-writing techniques or developing note-taking
  • Having access to different ways of recording, e.g. using a laptop or voice dictation/recording software

Support for employment

If you struggle with aspects of learning including your literacy skills, this may have an impact on your ability to do your job effectively. If you feel this is the case, it is best to talk to a suitable person at work about the nature of your difficulties and what may help. The Human Resources should be able to help you or talk to your line manager.

Sam’s story

Sam was in college and she was confused about what to do in the future. She had been identified as having difficulties with literacy skills and coordination from a young age and had received support at school and at college. Sam had aspirations to study at university and was happy when she was offered a place on her preferred course, but began to become anxious about the demands of the course and about what support would be available.

During a university open day, Sam visited the stand for disabilities and extra support and was reassured to hear about all of the support available. Sam talked to her college and she worked with her tutor on an information profile to remind Sam of all of her strengths, difficulties and what helped her with her learning. Sam spoke to the university’s Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) team several months before she started and they were able to reassure her about the assessment process and also support options. Sam was confident that the support would help her and pleased this would be done quickly.

Transition checklist

Use this checklist to identify how well prepared you are for transition:

  1. Have I considered the benefits/downsides of all of the options available to me before choosing what to do next?
  2. Am I preparing for an option that I feel motivated and passionate about and that fits with my plans for the future?
  3. Have I visited the setting and met key people that can help me?
  4. Have I thought about what has supported and helped me during my education? What support will I need at my next setting?
  5. Would it be helpful for me to have a transition meeting? Who would I like to attend this?
  6. Have I shared information about my additional support needs with my new setting? If not, who do I need to talk to about this?
  7. Have I shared any professional reports/exam concession forms that might be helpful for the university/employer?

Later Stages:

  1. Where do I go on my first day?
  2. What do I need to take with me?
  3. Is the support I need in place?
  4. Who is my point of contact, if I have any difficulties or questions?

Disability Student Allowance (

The Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) is an assessment based allowance at Higher Education to cover some of the extra costs you have because of a mental health problem, long term illness or any other disability. You can get the allowances on top of your other student finance. You won’t need to repay DSAs.

People use DSA to get help with the costs of: specialist equipment, for example a computer if you need one because of your disability, non-medical helpers, extra travel because of your disability, and other disability-related costs of studying.

Access to Work (

Access to Work is a publicly funded employment support programme that aims to help more disabled people start or stay in work. It can provide practical and financial support if you have a disability or long term physical or mental health condition. An Access to Work grant can pay for practical support to help you start work, stay in work, move into self-employment or start a business. However, any grant provided is not for business start-up costs and the amount provided depends on your circumstances. The money doesn’t have to be paid back and will not affect your other benefits.

Jobcentre Plus (

Jobcentre Plus helps people move from benefits into work and helps employers advertise jobs. It also deals with benefits for people who are unemployed or unable to work because of a health condition or disability. You can find out where your local Jobcentre Plus is at the above address.

Contact details

This guide was written by our Educational Psychology team, following consultation with Devon education providers, young people, parents and professionals.

For queries or further information, please contact