An Introduction to Transition Planning for Young Adults With Autism
What is Transition Planning?
Transition planning allows you and your neurodiverse child to roadmap the journey to high school graduation and beyond. The process involves researching and connecting with services, support, and activities designed to give your autistic adult the skills needed to thrive in the next chapter of their lives.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), effective transition planning must be:
Results-orientated – a plan with defined goals
Student-centered – reflective of the student’s interests, strengths, and personal preferences
Comprehensive – include employment goals, living arrangement, community participation goals, and post-secondary education goals
Supportive – include opportunities for the student to learn functional skills that enable positive educational, community and work experiences
Laying the Groundwork:
Transitioning into adulthood can be both exciting and daunting. Before you and your child begin the planning process, spend time establishing goals and challenges, discussing self-advocacy, and recognizing your limitations and responsibilities as a parent.
Brainstorm what your young adult’s future might look like, including their goals and potential challenges.
Prioritize student-centered planning and self-determination, ensuring your child feels they are in control of their future and empowered to make decisions on their own behalf. Consider their learning style and adapt the planning process to suit.
Understand your role as a parent. You may need to be their primary advocate, provide personal information, and make arrangements for financial and support needs. With this being said, you should also ask your child what their boundaries are. Ask them what they are comfortable with you saying in meetings or to team members.
For more information about self-advocacy and determination, visit the Autistic Self Advocacy Network website.
Finding Meaning in Employment
Securing employment is a significant milestone for all young adults. The benefits of employment stretch far beyond financial gains – it offers a sense of personal satisfaction and achievement. To help your child find meaning in their employment, consider their why.
Are they hoping to:
Learn more about a topic that interests them?
Contribute to a team effort?
Become more competent at social and life skills?
Showcase their talent for a specific task?
Meet like-minded people?
Different Types of Employment
The evolving nature of employment has opened doors for flexible work arrangements, accommodations, and supports, many of which can help young adults on the autism spectrum thrive in the workplace. Furthermore, the job market is incredibly varied, and there are many fulfilling opportunities available to your child that can cater to their individual needs, goals, and preferences.
Broadly, there are three types of employment your child can explore.
Full- or part-time work with standard responsibilities paying market wages
Individuals are fully integrated into the general workforce
Special skills are often required
Employment supports and accommodations are supplied if needed
Competitive jobs with optional support services, generally funded via state-specific developmental or vocational rehabilitation centers
Individuals are paid wages and benefits
Placements offer built-in, personalized safety nets
Guaranteed jobs where individuals with disabilities (including autism) undertake duties in a self-contained unit, typically supported by federal or state funds
Individuals are unpaid or paid minimal compensation
Includes basic group and skills learning and behavioral supports
Physical and Social Job Matching
In addition to employment type, young adults with autism will need to consider how well a particular position meets their physical and social requirements. While a first job may not be the perfect match, as your child develops more advanced skills through experience, they will move closer to their dream position.
Physical job matching factors include the following:
Noise levels in the office or on the job
Expected hours of employment
Wages and other benefits
Physical requirements (e.g., fitness)
Accepted margin of error
Social Job Matching Factors Include the Following:
Expected interaction with co-workers, managers, supervisors, customers, and other individuals
Clarity of job expectations
Required communication skills, including verbal and written communication
Available personal space
Time for and access to snacks and water
Opportunities for breaks
Training and support
JAN – information and resources on workplace accommodations
Getting Hired – job search connecting individuals with inclusive employers
Hire Autism – job search for individuals with autism
Xceptional – job search connecting individuals with inclusive employers
Workplace Inclusion Now – Autism Speaks’ employment system that aims to support an inclusive workplace culture
USA Government Jobs and Education for People with Disabilities – resources on finding a government job and how to prepare for an interview
Academic Strengths and Interests
If post-secondary education is your young adult’s goal, start by identifying their academic strengths and interests. From there, you can begin the research phase of your plan, investigating potential courses and programs that cater to both your child’s intellectual and social needs.
If a proficiency test, such as the ACT or SAT, is required to enter their first-choice program, start preparations early. A special education case manager or guidance counselor can help with accommodations requests when sitting standardized tests.
Types of Schools and Programs
The post-secondary landscape is diverse and ever-changing. When exploring schools and programs, keep the following considerations in mind:
Start with your child’s interests. Depending on your young adult's needs, goals, and preferences, technical institutes, vocational schools, state schools, community colleges, and liberal arts schools may be suitable options.
Think about time and financial demands. Certificate programs, for example, offer sound training in areas of interest and are typically shorter and more affordable than vocational schools.
Plan for living arrangements. Many young adults start their post-secondary education at a two-year community college, allowing them to live at home. After two years, they may choose to move onto a four-year college.
Consider programs that focus on or integrate living skills, such as independence, job skills, social skills, and self-determination. A guidance counselor may assist with this option.
Attend orientation programs and conduct online research to build familiarity, especially if your child wishes to move out of your home to attend college.
College Programs – a list of post-secondary institutions across the country that offer training and certification with individualized and group support
The College Autism Network – a non-profit connecting aiming to improve access to and outcomes of post-secondary students on the autism spectrum
State Contacts from the US Department of Education – a state-by-state list of adult, higher, and special education agencies
Home and Lifestyle
Living Arrangements for Young Adults with Autism
Moving out of the home can be nerve-wracking for young adults from all walks of life, individuals with autism included. If your child has decided to move out of your home, they have many options, supports, and services available.
Different types of living arrangements include:
Living alone in a house, apartment, studio, dormitory, or other residential arrangements
Requires safety and life skills needed to live on their own without daily supervision
Living with family or a family friend as a "roommate"
Typically lives independently and completes daily life skills on their own, with an adult or paid worker providing supervision and occasional hands-on support
Reduces concerns of social isolation and safety
Living in a home, apartment, or group home with a caregiver or service provider
Caregiver checks-in regularly and offers hands-on support to help with daily activities, such as waking up on time or cooking a meal
Living Arrangements Resources
Autism Housing Network – platform for housing options and resources for autistic adults across the United States
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Voucher Programs – the federal government’s program assisting low-income people, the elderly, and the disabled to afford safe, suitable housing in the private market
Residential Housing Options Across the Country:
A new phase of life demands new skills. Identifying and developing those skills is critical to a smooth transition for your young adults.
Life skills include the range of tasks people undertake daily, such as cooking a meal and taking a shower or bath. Your child’s life skills will help you determine which living arrangement is best suited to their needs.
Functional skills are needed to navigate the challenges of adult life, such as money management, computer use, riding public transport, and grocery shopping.
Health and safety skills are critical to a successful transition from the family home to independent or supervised living. Health and safety skills apply to the physical world – such as responding to a fire alarm or knowing when to visit a doctor – and online world – such as protecting personal information from theft and cyberbullying.
Relational skills help young adults form meaningful, mutual platonic, and romantic relationships. This includes forming a nuanced understanding of consent.
Living Skills Resources
The AASPIRE Healthcare Toolkit for Adults on the Autism Spectrum – resources, worksheets, and strategies to empower young adults to take control of their health
Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide to Safety – an autism safety resource covering safety networks, physical and sexual safety, bullying and online threats, and financial and workplace safety
Sex Ed. for Self-Advocates – a sex education guide for people on the autism spectrum 15 years and older
Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe – a resource helping children and teenagers recognize and prevent bullying and abuse
iElevate hopes that you found this resource helpful. Remember that this process can be daunting and overwhelming to all involved. If you find yourself lost, confused, or overwhelmed at any stage of this process, please reach out to Danielle Feerst OTR/L by clicking here to book a FREE 30 minute consultation. She has years of experience working with young adults and families who are working towards a meaningful life. Along with her Peer Mentors, Danielle and the rest of iElevate have several other ideas, experiences, and areas of expertise on working with young adults with social emotional learning differences to promote living a fully engaged life. In addition, you can connect with us on our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. If you have any ideas for future blog posts, feel free to message us on any of our social media accounts or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Edited by Madison Gies, Peer Mentor/Coach, OTDS