By Amy-Jane Griffiths, Ph.D., NCSP, BCBA-D, Director of Chapman University’s Families and Schools Together (F.A.S.T) at The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders
The transition from high school to adulthood can be the most exciting and challenging time for students. And for teens with autism, the transition to adulthood can be especially difficult. Planning ahead is especially important and can make the process smoother and more enjoyable.
Here are six tips on how to make this a useful and productive process:
1. Build a strong team.
- Invite the student to identify people in their lives that they would like to support them through this transition period.
- Find people in your community of friends, family and professionals who hold different but complementary skills.
2. Create a vision using the student’s strengths and interests.
- Many successful adults with disabilities find happiness and great success by viewing their differences as unusual and distinct abilities.
- Help the youth identify their strengths and work with him/her to create a vision for their future.
- Set high expectations that are clear, positive and person-centered.
3. Ensure goals provide opportunities for contribution, are action-based and focused on the present.
- Start with the skills and goals that impact safety (e.g. getting around the community, safely interacting with strangers, identifying whom to turn to for help, etc.)
- Develop short-term measurable goals that lead to the long-term vision. Think S.M.A.R.T: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-limited.
- As a team, provide opportunities for the young person to participate in meaningful, interesting and challenging activities that allow him/her to utilize his strengths.
4. Start teaching the necessary skills now.
- Remember, after we set these goals, the skills involved must be taught.
- The best time to learn and practice transition-related skills is during adolescence and young adulthood, when there is still a circle of support or a “safety net” for when challenges occur. Start the skill building now.
5. Let your voice be heard.
- Each person on the team has a unique and valuable perspective and should take an active role in developing a plan.
6. Plan for challenges and stay focused.
- This process is not easy. The more you can plan for mishaps, the more likely you will be able to move beyond them and get back on track.
- Communicate with your team when you feel things are not working or need to be adjusted.
- Know that it is possible!
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