The Road Ahead – Main report

3. What information do young people want at transition?


This chapter presents the findings from the young people's discussions about the information they wanted during transition. The changes the young people wanted to make as they grew up are presented first, before the more abstract discussion of the types of information they would need at transition. (For full details of the activities used to facilitate the discussions see Appendix B.)

What changes did the young people want to make as they grow up?

The changes discussed by the young people are described below under eight headings: having a job; college; where to live; social life; interests and hobbies; relationships; emotional and physical changes; 'don't know'. The main changes the young people wanted to make - or had made - were either getting a job or going to college. None of the young people mentioned wanting to go to day services or day centres. Some of the older young people, who had more life experience, were aware of supported employment agencies.

Having a job

The young people had a varied range of ideas relating to work and jobs. They spoke of wanting to work in a flower shop, in Asda, in a kitchen as a cook's assistant, with babies or as a DJ. Three of the young people already had part-time jobs. One young woman commented that she had:

'Got a part-time job to get money.'

One 16-year-old young woman worked in a pub, one had a job at a burger bar and another 18-year-old worked at a day centre for elderly people laying tables for mealtimes.


Attendance at college was already a reality for some of the young people: those who were older or who had left mainstream school (where they had had a support worker) at 16. Mark (1), for example, who was 16, was at two different colleges.

Going to college appeared to be an expectation for many of the young people who were still at school. Sarah, aged 16, stated that she would:

'Go to Lufton Manor - a college where you live.'

She knew that other pupils from her current school had gone there.

Where to live

Six of the young people wanted to live with friends in a house or flat. Darren, aged 15, stated his intention to:

'Leave home and live with friends'.

Of these six, two specifically mentioned the importance of being able to still keep in contact with their parents.

A further two of the young people were clear that they wanted to:

'stay with Mum and Dad'.

By contrast, David, who was 22, and already lived with carers in a residential home, wanted to:

'Live in Australia'.

This was where his dad and step mum lived; he had been there and stayed in Sydney.

Social life

Eight of the young people (mainly those still at school) specifically talked about going out and having fun. They spoke of going to clubs, pubs and into town to go out 'drinking' or 'dancing', either with their current friends or with the intention of making friends.

Interests and hobbies

Christopher, who was 14, was clear that he wanted to do:

'Same as now. I go trampolining and on Wednesday I go to Pied Piper [music class]. '

Other activities mentioned included: walking, horse riding, following favourite football teams, doing gymnastics or athletics. One of the older young people wanted to further her sporting interests at an international level.


Not surprisingly, the young people wanted to have relationships; indeed, one of the young women's main aims in life was to have a boyfriend. She was currently still at school; having a relationship was her strongest desire for the future.

Emotional and physical changes

Three of the young people talked about the changes that had happened to them, physically and emotionally. Sian, 19, recognised that:

'Your feelings are different as you get older. Feel different things.'

Jane, who was 15, confirmed that growing up resulted in:

'Changes in feelings, lots of changes, a year and a month ago I felt childish.'

She spoke about her growing liking for, and understanding of, boys and boyfriends.

Anthony said he had wanted to:

'Change his attitude [as he grew up] - not be silly all the time.'

while Matthew recognised that:

'In year 8 he began to get tall. He was small in year 7.'

Don't know

Four of the younger participants (under 18 years of age) did not know what they wanted to do when they were older. They were still at school and would remain at school until they were 19. The question seemed irrelevant to them. They were focused on their current situation. Robert, who was 16, for example, said:

'Don't know. I'm at school, I like school.'

The young people who were over 20 had experience of making changes in their lives. Their responses clearly show that growing up involves a variety of steps and decisions and that 'transition' is a very individual and on-going process. The changes experienced by these young people primarily involved what they were doing during the day, like going to work or college, or continuing particular interests which they had already developed. The changes they had made reflected the desires expressed by the younger participants in the study, such as wanting to live independently, to have a job or go to college.

The diversity of young people's paths at transition

The pen pictures that follow illustrate the diversity of the young people's paths at transition.

Mark is working at NVQ level 2 at catering college. He wants to be a chef, but has problems with his joints and finds heavy work, such as holding a big bowl to mix things, difficult. He has been at college for four years. He is now on a full-time, two-year course. The previous two years were like 6 th form: part-time catering and English and Maths. Mark was going to cook at the races in March. Next year he was going to London to see 'posh' hotels. He hopes to get a job. Martin had been away at boarding school but was now back home and at college where he says he is: 'very very happy'.

Ellie, who is 23, wants to live independently. She is working on that at the moment. She volunteers in two schools and wants to be a classroom assistant. She is going to give up volunteering in one school to go back to college in September. She found out about volunteering through knowing a teacher at the convent school she had attended. With their help she went and asked if she could work in the reception class. She had a police check and an interview. She is going to do a basic child care course in September or, if this is too easy, a more advanced course.

Jack, who is 21, wants to get a job with the local supported employment agency. He wants to work on the van that goes out doing gardening. He is at college at the moment. He is in a design company that is making cards: Christmas cards, Valentine cards. They sell them at the college, or in the local area for£1. He left school and went straight to college. He said that:

'The school took us to college to learn things'.

Anthony, who is now 30 and a helper with the local advocacy group, left school at 16. He used to go to college, learning how to use computers. He now attends a work development unit. As we saw above, he had wanted to change his attitude (as he grew up) and 'not be silly all the time'. He likes helping his mum with shopping and cleaning.

Carmel, aged 21, is an athlete and travels the world for her sport. She has visited Portugal, Tunisia and France and would like to further her sporting interests at an international level.

Kingston, aged 20, was at college. He had found out about college from his helper at school.

The changes the young people wanted to make, or had made, in their lives reflect the common markers of adulthood indicated in other studies of young people's aspirations (Barnardo's,undated; Choices Advocacy,undated; Heslop et al, 2002). But while some important aspects of their life would change, that was not the case for everything. Some of the young people wanted to remain living at home, while others made it clear that they wanted to continue with their hobbies.

What information did the young people want at transition?

All the young people said that they needed practical information that would support them in their everyday life, as well as information which would support their personal development and involvement in the wider society. Their desire for this type of information shows the importance to them of being in control of their own lives and making their own decisions, at a variety of levels.

The types of information the young people felt they needed during transition are grouped together under 14 themes. They are presented in order of importance (in relation to the number of young people who selected pictures/or discussed issues corresponding to the themes). Most of the themes were discussed by young people of different ages, although their importance varied from most important to less so, depending on the individual. (See Appendix B for a full discussion of the activity used to support the young people's contribution to this abstract discussion.)


The young people stressed the importance of getting a job. They discussed working in a hospital, being a chef, and:

'Learning how to be a postman.'

Two young women wanted to work in childcare.


The two young women who wanted to work in childcare also discussed going to college, to prepare for work in their chosen field. One stated that she was going to college:

'To learn about how to look after babies to get a job.'

One of the young men [Mark in the pen pictures above] was already on a catering course in order to become a chef. The young people talked about needing information about college open days, from careers advisers or access to the careers library so that they could decide on their options for the future. Interestingly, Connexions advisers were not mentioned.

While college was seen by some of the young people as a stepping stone to work, others merely saw college as the logical next step on from school. Many of the young people were aware of older school mates going on to college; this was often the focus of the transition planning that took place in the special schools attended by the young people involved in the study.

Where to live

The young people also wanted information on the various housing options open to them so, as one young person said they could:

'Have my own space.'

Having a flat with support, living at college and continuing to live at home were all mentioned.


The young people also wanted information on handling money:

'I have a switch card, but I like the idea of having a visa [credit] card too.'

The types of information needed varied from different ways of handling money to 'learning how to pay bills', getting a job and having to 'balance it with benefits and money in the bank'.


Most of the young people mentioned needing information about friendships, and highlighted the importance of social networks and keeping in touch with family and friends when living independently. The information needed included strategies to maintain friendships such as:

'Knowing when people's birthdays are to send a card'

and how to keep in touch with friends from school (particularly if the young person attended a special school some distance from their home).

They also wanted to know how to socialise and:

'Get to know people in the world.'

They saw friendships as developing in traditional social contexts, such as the pub, church and so on.

Sex and relationships

The information required in relation to sex and relationships included advice on getting a boyfriend or girlfriend, sex, having a family, or - as one of the young people pointed out - the importance of contraception:

'Having a boyfriend but not having babies yet.'


This part of the young people's discussions was summarised by one young person as follows:

'Keeping safe on the road, being safe [generally], being safe in the house - having a fire alarm.'

Being safe also included: 'knowing about strangers', street safety and:

'Looking after myself while out clubbing/at the pub - being safe not getting your drink spiked.'

One young person referred to a talk organised by college about drugs. He felt he had learnt a lot about drugs and knew they were bad for him.

Being in charge of your life

The young people said they wanted information which would enable them to be in control of their lives, to make decisions and to choose what to do. This included:

'Knowing how to say no.'

'Knowing how to use taxis.'

Being in control of their lives also included an understanding of their own capabilities:

'Learning what I can handle and what I can do'

as well as

'Learning how to manage [ their own ] stress levels'.

Living independently

The importance of information on many of the practical aspects of living independently was also mentioned by the young people. They wanted information on:

They particularly needed information (which linked with the theme of money discussed above) about:

Healthy living

On 'healthy living' the young people wanted to know about:

A specific request included:

'what happens when you are smoking and why you should not smoke'.

Having fun

Information was also required on having fun! The young people wanted information on 'beer and drinking' and 'going to parties'.

By contrast, one young person wanted information on:

'Relaxing - and having some peace.'


Some young people said they wanted information about music - in general, as well as how to go about getting music. One person talked about:

'Knowing how to choose music in HMV.'


Other young people mentioned wanting information about sport and how to participate at the general hobby level as well as opportunities for young people who were very serious about sport, like Carmel the young woman competing at an international level (described in the pen pictures above).

Helping others

The ability of young people with learning difficulties to help others was highlighted by Sarah. She wanted information which could enable her to:

'Help other people who need help at home and people who are in wheelchairs who are really ill.'

Sarah also wanted information about how to look after homeless and sick animals.


This section described the young people's discussions of the changes they had made, or would like to make, and showed that they expected to lead a full and active life. It illustrated the diversity of young people's paths at transition. It also showed that the young people had similar life expectations to other young people their age and needed information on:

  • Work
  • Going to college
  • Where to live
  • Money (including handling money and the impact on benefits of getting a job or moving out of home).
  • Friends
  • Sex and relationships
  • Safety
  • Being in charge of your life
  • Rights and responsibilities (including helping others and playing an active role in the community and the law and people with learning difficulties)
  • Living independently
  • Healthy living
  • Emotional changes
  • Having fun.

(1) Not his real name; all names have been changed.