Autism…What’s Going To Happen After High School?
Whether your child is graduating from high school in June or not for several years, what happens next for your teen with an autism spectrum disorder depends upon a number of factors:
When your child was diagnosed;
What services and supports have been secured...and when;
Where you are in the process (e.g. denial or advocacy);
What you know about your child’s strengths and needs; and
Whether you understand that school services must go beyond academics.
Parents are often in the dark about their child’s IEP even if there's been one in place for several years, so here’s the bottom-line – the IEP is required to address all areas where your child has deficits. And these include social skills, self-advocacy, executive functioning and beyond, each of which directly correlates to college and employment.
A report recently issued by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute and a correlating piece by NPR touches on two critical points and also questions why this data reflects these statistics:
Only 58% of children had a transition plan in place by age 14; and
Only 66% of young people had either college plans or a job within two years after graduation.
These two data points are tied together, with the transition plan leading the way.
A transition plan addressing your child’s strengths, needs, interests, and plans must be detailed and monitored – by you – regularly and on an ongoing basis. Here's the most important point -- having a transition plan in place isn’t an option, but a requirement if your child has an IEP.
And…if the goals in your child’s transition plan cannot be measured and fail to show progress toward solidifying the skills and steps needed to attend college or be employed, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
Why are the statistics not surprising but rather a wake-up call for parents to lead this effort? Because without a solid transition plan that is concrete and measurable, it’s no wonder that 2/3rds of young adults with autism are not attending college or holding down a job. The skills they need to learn must be taught - in school - starting in the formative years vs. after graduation. Because by that time, the gaps have widened and it's far more difficult to achieve the mastery needed based upon the child's individual capabilities.
This is an emerging tsunami with no easy answers, quick fixes, or guarantees, yet the transition plan sets forth the direction. And because parents often lack the information they need to effectively advocate for their children when it comes to transition planning, it's often viewed as an after-thought vs. the goal of special education in the first place.
And for those teens who do plan to attend college, many parents are unaware of the steps they need to take to prepare in this arena, which is the basis for our company seminar (or webinar) for working parents to teach what they need to know before their child transitions to college.
What happens to your child after high school graduation depends upon many factors, and your ability to secure the services and supports your child needs right now is what guides the process. Academics, social, behavioral, functional, developmental…consider your child’s needs in these areas and be sure the transition plan (and IEP) addresses each. The expression to never take no for an answer is never more true than when it comes to making sure school is teaching the skills needed for life.