By:Mariann Young, Ph.D.
Rainbow Rehabilitation Centers
It is summer, and the season of high school graduations is upon us. This is an important milestone for every adolescent and especially for those who have sustained a brain injury. They beat the odds and succeeded in the classroom. They have persevered in spite of deficits—at times in physical, cognitive and behavioral domains—and achieved their diplomas.
Graduation signifies a time of change for the adolescent. This milestone is part of the process that moves the child closer to adult status. Changes occur in intellectual, physical and psychological areas. Early adulthood is a difficult time in life because of all the decisions that young people face. This period, usually from the ages of 18 through 26, also sets the stage for later adult years. Leaving the family home and the structure of school and taking on the responsibility of independence can be challenging. Taking on the roles of worker, college student, husband, wife or parent can seem overwhelming at times.
The question then becomes, “How does a person successfully travel through this stage of life and then remain successful as an adult?” In a report submitted by Benson et al. (2014), it was found that the following are keys to success:
Physical Health—Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, minimizing and managing risk-taking behaviors and developing a pro-health lifestyle are all important keys to success. Good nutrition combined with regular exercise factor into the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. In addition, avoiding alcohol, tobacco and drugs, while practicing safe driving behaviors can promote good physical health. Practicing safe sex and avoiding violent situations or the use of violence round out this area of being a physically healthy young adult.
Psychological and Emotional Well-Being—In a nutshell, young adults who are happy with the direction that their life is headed or those who have a plan for change when they are not, are typically on a path of success. These young adults appear confident, positive and involved.
Life Skills—Successful young adults show that they are able to use a variety of skills in the social, cognitive and emotional areas. They can gradually take care of themselves by making good decisions independent of their parents. They can multi-task, are flexible and use self-control when reacting to opportunities and challenges. Planning, financial responsibility, problem-solving, and achieving short- and long-term goals become more evident as adolescents transition through the period of young adulthood.
Ethical Behavior—Successful young adults are good citizens. Their values include helping others, obeying the law and accepting responsibility for their decisions or behaviors. They do not blame others for their decisions or behaviors, rather, they accept responsibility and deal with the consequences.
Healthy Family & Social Relationships—These people are connected. They have friendships, a peer group and are an effective and loving part of a family. They may be in a romantic relationship. They have people that they can turn to in times of need.
Education—The completion of high school, an occupational degree and certification requirements are powerful determinants of later adult success in work, health and other personal outcomes.
Purposeful Activity—Investing in activities that will further a person in later adulthood such as study, work or homemaking is purposeful. It is recommended that at least 35 hours a week should be spent in one, or a combination of these activities.
Civic Engagement—It is recommended that some time should be spent volunteering, doing charitable giving, voting or political or environmental action. Contributing to society helps the common good but also increases the positive well-being of the helper.
Because developmental stages do not happen at a prescribed time, they are associated with an age range. There are influences to a period of development.
The first influence is called a normative age-graded influence. This is connected to age and can include physical maturation or age at graduation. The second influence is called a history-graded influence. This is a historical event that can influence an entire group of people. Wars, epidemics, technological advances and economic depressions are all examples of this type of influence on normal development.
These two groups, age-graded and history-graded, are normative influences because they are within the boundaries of expected life events. There are also non-normative events that are significant for a particular individual but not a part of an overall pattern tied to a life cycle. A prime example of a non-normative event is sustaining a brain injury (Lifespan development and lifelong learning, 2014).
Young adults who have had a traumatic brain injury experience differences in their transition to adulthood. Their goals are similar or the same as their peer group—to work, have a family and further their skills. But they do not always achieve them at the same rate as their non-injured counterparts or to the same degree.
In many cases, they reject the brain injury label. They are tired of the diagnosis and believe that there are no longer consequences of the injury. Often, continued support is indicated, but the young adults do not believe that it is necessary. Therapy may be dropped, doctor appointments missed, and support and structure stopped.
When rash decisions are made, it is important to let the injured young adult know that they have resources in case their plan does not go as expected. This may be an extremely difficult time for them as they come to grips with the significance of their injuries.
Benson, P. L., Scales, P. C., Hawkins, J. D., Oesterle, S., & Hill, K. G. (2014, May 3). EXECUTIVE SUMMARY SUCCESSFUL YOUNG ADULT DEVELOPMENT A report submitted to: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved from gatesfoundation.org: https://docs.gatesfoundation.org/Documents/SuccessfulDevelopment.pdf
Lifespan development and lifelong learning. (2014, May 20). Retrieved from infed.org: http://infed.org/mobi/life-span-development-and-lifelong-learning/