In this episode, we discuss preparing for the transition to adulthood in teenagers with autism. Dr. Matt Segall discussed that it is important to realize that autism is not a disorder of childhood. He noted that although some teenagers may appear that they have outgrown autism, this is a not a disorder that people can grow out of. Usually, these individuals have learned ways to compensate for the difficulties they have, but work so hard to compensate, that they are exhausted by the end of the day. Even if they appear to function well, developmentally, they may actually be younger than their neurotypical peers.
It is important to plan for transition as there is a lot to plan for. It is important to determine what how to manage inclusion after high school. It gives us a framework for identifying where we see the student after graduation and entering the community, and to identify what skills are missing and take advantage of the years they have to maximize the years. A transition assessment can aide this process. A transition assessment should be focused on identifying where this individual going to live, what are they going to do vocationally, and what do they need to be part of a community. The answers to these should lead to goals to populate into the IEP.
Parents should ideally begin thinking about thinking about transition in 8th or 9th grade. This helps to determine they type of degree they will graduate with, the type of testing they will have. However, the school system doesn’t often begin planning for the transition until the last year of high school.
There are numerous factors for parents to consider during this transition process, including your child’s social skills, their adaptive behaviors, how they are as a part of the community, psychological status, safety, work, finances, health, independent living, self-awareness, self-advocacy, self-determination, continued or higher education, executive functioning, continuity of service, finding their passion and engaging in that passion, maintaining health insurance, the teen understanding their healthcare needs, and understanding community and social rules.
It is important when creating an IEP that functional aspects are just as important to include as academic skills. However, those aspects can be difficult to put into practice in the schools. The children need to be taught the social skills, practice them, and learn from mistakes. Dr. Segall noted that it is important to plan for the transition to make the most of high school, to teach skills, obtain feedback, to determine where we expect the child to end up after high school. This doesn’t mean college vs no college. Some teens who are college capable do not have the desire to go to college. We need to be ok with this and assist them in finding the right path for them and create opportunities for them. We want to make sure we are taking into account what the teens want. There are multiple avenues for additional education if the child desires, such as technical schools, dual enrollment in high school, or an Associate’s Degree. There are also nondegreed programs on college campuses where the teen could learn academics, social skills, life skills, and vocational skills. Inclusive education is incredibly important to both teens with autism and other teens.
Even if students are capable of managing the academic component of higher education, it is important that the teen is also capable of regulating and managing their day, planing their day, achieve their goals, be goal directed, and manage their own emotions. If the child doesn’t have that ability, then these should be IEP goals so that they have a successful start to college.
Self-advocacy is a major factor. There are 4 critical skills everyone needs, the first being social skills. Self-awareness skills are very important and are the precursor to self-determination and self-advocacy skills. These skills must be taught in order to develop self-determination and self-advocacy skills. These teens need to be able to know and communicate strengths and interests, know their challenges, know how they see the world differently as a result of being on the spectrum, how the world sees them differently, and what works for them. Self-determination encompasses setting a goal, making a plan to achieve the goal, and having the intention to implement the plan to achieve that goal. Self-advocacy encompasses the ability to communicate about what you need, what you want, and what you would prefer to do.
To assist in preparing the teen for the transition, the IEP goals need to be their own and goals that they want to work on. In order to do this, the teen has to know their diagnosis, even this is uncomfortable for the parent or teachers. This can also help to determine eligibility for the program the teen wants to get into and working on that. It is then important to start working on these goals one by one. We have to realize that it can be overwhelming for them. However, transition will happen no matter what, so making sure everyone is prepared will set the teen up success. Having a support system for both you and your child can help significantly. Independent living skills tend to decline in those who are higher functioning, whereas those who have moderate functioning tend to improve in those skills, because people continue to work with them. Teens can experience anxiety or depressive symptoms around this time, and they may not have the coping skills or communication skills to use a strategy or reach out for help. Poor outcomes in school and work are devastating to them, but are avoidable with good planning. Therefore, the goals should always be about creating or maintaining opportunities for the student.
Parents can cope with this transition by engaging more heavily in the planning process. Toolkits on Autism Speaks about everything related to coping, transitions, and even diagnosis. Connecting with other families helps to not feel isolated during this process. It is important to set up small successes and reinforcing how well the child did with that task. It is important to focus on the positives in the situations, as best we can.
Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction
Transition Tool Kit
VCU Autism Center For Excellence
Emory Autism Center Education and Transition Services
Organization For Autism Research
OAR Finding Your Way: A College Guide For Students On The Spectrum
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Hosted by: Jessica Temple and Lewis Temple
Disclaimer: Our show is not designed to provide listeners with specific or personal legal, medical, or professional services or advice. Parents of children with health issues should always consult their health care provider for medical advice, medication, or treatment.
Copyright 2020 Jessica and Lewis Temple