Later School Years
Transitions and Post-Secondary
Transitions are often 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 postsecondary success. Learning what resources and supports a school offers is an important step in choosing which college to attend. For information about one such program, click here.
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 is a difficult one that requires 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.
Read this article about job transitions for people with Asperger’s syndrome.
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.
Many individuals on the spectrum are able to continue their education by attending college or trade schools. This also provides opportunities to further social interaction, particularly in areas where the individual has key interests.
Work with your young adult in selecting classes that take advantage of his/her strengths. It is also important to prepare your young adult to navigate the daily demands of college life. If he/she is not ready to function independently in the post-secondary world, there are programs available to support him/her in the transition. For information on one such program, read this article from the Autism Advocate.
If your loved one has decided to pursue post-secondary education or training prior to employment, consider these suggestions:
- Identify post-secondary institutions (colleges, vocational programs in the community, trade schools, etc.) that offer training in the individual’s career of interest. Write or call for catalogs, financial aid information, and application materials. Visit the institution.
- Identify what accommodations would be helpful to address the individual’s special needs. Find out if the educational institution makes, or can make, these accommodations.
- Identify any admissions tests (e.g. PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, ACT) necessary for entry into post-secondary institutions of interest.
- If this is the individual’s last year of secondary school, contact the department of Vocational Rehabilitation in your state and/or the Social Security Administration to determine eligibility for services or benefits.