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Transition to adulthood is an important step for individuals with ASD. In Indiana, this period of transition considered to begin at age 14, at which point individuals and families are expected to begin planning for an individual’s future. This may include plans for postsecondary education, employment, independent living, or other goals based on the individual’s unique skills, strengths, and desires. The pages within this section will provide information about available resources, supports, and considerations for individuals transitioning to adulthood.
What Supports Are Available for Individuals with ASD after They Leave School?
Indiana’s Special Education Rules (known as “Article 7”) state that students with disabilities are eligible to receive free and appropriate public education (FAPE) until age 22. Upon leaving high school, a number of resources–both statewide and regionally–are available to individuals with ASD who wish to pursue postsecondary education, employment, or other goals of adulthood. Statewide agencies offering supports to individuals planning for transition include the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (in particular, the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services, which can assist with accessing waiver-based services, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, which provides assistance to individuals seeking employment, and the Independent Living Services Program, which offers services to individuals related to independent living and housing). In addition, the Arc of Indiana provides supports and services to individuals with disabilities for many aspects of life, including social activities, family training opportunities, future planning, self-advocacy, and employment resources. Autism Society of Indiana and its Autism Resource Network of Indiana (ARNI) can also assist in locating statewide and regional supports for individuals transitioning to adulthood. Finally, IN*SOURCE offers a comprehensive library of resources and supports to help individuals and families plan for an uninterrupted movement into adult life.
For specific resources available in your region, consider contacting the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, your local school district, regional chapters of the Arc, or searching the Autism Resource Network of Indiana (ARNI) database. Individuals interested in pursuing college or other postsecondary education should contact those institutions directly to inquire what supports, scholarships, or other resources may be available to students with disabilities.
Can Individuals with ASD Live Independently?
Certainly, many individuals with ASD are able to live, work, drive, and succeed in other aspects of life independently. Because ASD is a spectrum disorder, individuals with ASD have varying skills, strengths, and interests, so different supports and resources may be necessary to help some individuals gain independence compared to others. Independent living may not be a goal for some individuals. Families may develop their own definitions of “independence” based on the specific skills and needs of the individual. Some considerations when creating a plan for independent living include the following:
- Does the individual wish to live independently?
- What are the individual’s strengths?
- What skills (such as communication, daily living, safety, leisure, financial, vocational, or self-care skills) does the individual need to gain or improve upon to be successfully independent?
- What kind of residential options (such as a private independent residence, supported living, supervised living, or group home living settings) are available for the individual?
- How will the individual or the family fund the chosen housing option?
- How can the individual’s safety be ensured when he or she is not under supervision?
- What transportation options are available for the individual?
Additional questions should be considered given the individual’s skills, strengths, needs, and desires. State-level agencies that are available to assist with planning for transition into independent living include the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (in particular, the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services, which can assist with accessing waiver-based services, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, which provides assistance to individuals seeking employment, and the Independent Living Services Program, which offers services to individuals related to independent living and housing). In addition, Autism Speaks has published a Housing and Residential Supports Toolkit to help families learn more about the housing-related options and services available to best plan for their adult family member with ASD. Resource centers such as HANDS in Autism and the Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA) also offer a number of downloadable supports and resources to help individuals with ASD develop and improve upon independent living skills. Additional resources can be found by searching the Autism Resource Network of Indiana (ARNI).
How Does a Parent Pursue Guardianship After a Child with ASD Turns 18?
Individuals in Indiana gain the legal right to make decisions (such as decisions related to medical care, finances, and residency) at the age of 18. However, if an individual is unable to make those decisions independently, a parent or other adult may be appointed guardianship by a court and assume responsibility for doing so. A physician or other professional aware of the individual’s competency to make his or her own decisions may determine whether a guardian should be appointed to assume the decision-making rights of the individual. A number of guardianship options exist, including co-guardianship, power of attorney, and conservatorship, among others. The Arc of Indiana’s Indiana Adult Guardianship Services Project (IAGS) offers a comprehensive overview of guardianship options, considerations, and processes. It is strongly recommended that families consult a legal representative before pursuing any guardianship options to determine which would be best for the family and individual.
- Arc of Indiana
- Autism Society of Indiana
- Autism Speaks
- Easterseals: Autism After Age 21
- HANDS in Autism: HANDSmade Program
- Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA)
- Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA)
- IN*SOURCE: Transition to Adult Life
- Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health: Center for Youth & Adults with Conditions of Childhood (CYACC)
- Autism Speaks
- HANDS in Autism®. (2013). Next steps manual, 4th edition. Indianapolis, IN: Trustees of Indiana University.
- Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA): Skills for the Future
- The Arc of Indiana: Guardianship & Alternatives to Guardianship