Transitions and Post-Secondary
Significant life transitions can be difficult for people on the autism spectrum and their families. People with ASD usually rely on routines to navigate social situations, and a sudden schedule or lifestyle change, such as beginning school, graduating or starting a new job, can be very disruptive and discomforting. Preparatory activities can reduce the stress of transitions, resulting in more confidence and comfort during these difficult phases.
For many, a major early transition is the one from the home environment to preschool or kindergarten. Fortunately, many helpful resources are available for children at this age. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) can help the student with special needs to pursue a valuable education in an appropriate setting. Acclimation to the educational plan and the social environment of the school requires support from parents, teachers and other school personnel, and other students.
As students with ASD progress through middle and high school, transitions remain a persistent and challenging aspect of life. Along with the physical and emotional changes and challenges of puberty, the student and his/her family might begin to address the eventual move to employment or college life; this transition planning should begin when the child reaches age 14. And, in fact, transition services are mandated under IDEA for children with disabilities ages 14 and up.
After High School
Many people with ASD pursue higher education, earning degrees and practicing the skills they will need for adult life. Some colleges provide resources to students with special needs, and there are also programs available that offer social, academic, career and life skills supports necessary for post-secondary success. Learning what resources and supports a school offers is an important step in choosing which college to attend.
At some point, the time likely will come to find a job for the young adult that provides income, a social experience and fulfilling work. This transition can require much effort on the part of the individual and his or her loved ones. Chances are that the person with autism will eventually switch jobs or careers at least a few times during his or her lifetime, which involves acclimating to a new work environment and new people. Though challenging, these times are extremely rewarding.
Adapting to changes is an attainable goal for a person who is supported by family, friends and the community at large. Like anyone else, a person with autism needs assistance and encouragement to achieve his or her ambitions and attain a productive and comfortable life.