Living With Autism: Preparing for a Lifetime
Each year, multitudes of students on the Autism Spectrum (ASD) prepare for life after school—from searching for a job and a place to live, to establishing lasting relationships.
For a person without a disability, this dramatic change from the secure world of school to the uncertainty of adulthood can be stressful and challenging. For a person on the autism spectrum, this shift can seem even more complexand demanding. Transition planning helps ease the move from school to adulthood for students with ASD. Faced with similar fears, and building on the experience of the special education system, the general education community has adopted the school-to-work movement. Unfortunately, despite years of mandated transition planning and a continued interest in preparing students with ASD for real life, many continue to experience high drop-out rates, high unemployment, low wages, few job choices, limited relationships and restricted living options.
In addition, some leave school unprepared to handle simple daily routines such as paying bills, balancing a budget and maintaining an orderly living environment. This bleak outlook requires those involved in educating students with asd to systematically and seriously pursue effective transition planning. So what exactly is transition planning? According to federal regulations, students who are beneficiaries of individual education programs (IEP) must have transition services outlined beginning no later than the age of 16. According to Osborn and Wilcox (1992), transition planning serves several important functions, including:
- introducing the family and the student to the adult service system
- determining support required by the student to live, work and participate in the community as an adult
- identifying adult service system gaps and inadequacies, enabling transition team members to advocate for more appropriate services
- providing information to adult service providers about individual needs so that providers will not assume all people with disabilities have identical needs when planning services and implementing programs
- providing information critical to determining appropriate IEP goals.
Through the IEP, parents and educators can target skill development necessary for a smooth transition in many states, individual transition plans (ITPs) are used as the mechanism to guide transition activities. Interestingly, the general education community has developed a parallel format, referred to as individual career plans, which focuses on helping students without disabilities move from school to work. In some states, school districts write both career plans and itps for students with disabilities. The career plan focuses solely on work, while the ITP document becomes the mechanism to address the following issues:
- work/post-school options
- income support/insurance
- residential options
- transportation needs
- medical needs
- community recreation and leisure options
- maintenance of family/friend relationships
- trusts/wills and long-term planning
- graduation or school exit date
Reprinted with the permission of the Autism Society.
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