As individuals with ASD approach adulthood, families should begin to consider and develop a plan for the transition from school to adult life. This transition period is an important time for individuals to explore educational, vocational, or independent living options, enhance and learn new life skills, become familiar with various support agencies and resources, and chart a course for a successful life based on their abilities, needs, and desires. This period can also present a number of challenges, as some of the supports that individuals were able to access during their years in school may not be as readily available into adulthood, and individuals and families are responsible for coordinating a number of services on their own without the assistance of an educational agency. However, with proper planning and an understanding of available resources and supports, families can prepare for a smooth transition to adult life.
When Should I Begin Planning for My Child’s Transition into Adulthood?
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. Article 7 also mandates that a student with disabilities receiving public education must have a transition individualized education program (IEP) in effect by the time he or she enters into 9th grade or turns 14 years old, whichever occurs first. So, while it is never too early to begin developing independent life skills that will aid the transition process, many families in Indiana begin transition planning around the age of 14. Because the funding and services offered to students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education and Improvement Act (IDEIA) are not available once the student receives a high school diploma or ages out of the school system, it is important to take advantage of these supports while they are available and to plan for a successful transition well before the student leaves high school.
In developing a transition IEP, a case conference committee (CCC) comprised of various school professionals and the student’s parent(s) will meet alongside the student to outline the student’s present level of academic achievement, an assessment of the student’s strengths, preferences, and interests, appropriate goals for transition (related to education, employment, training, and/or independent living), applicable transition services and agencies available to assist with these goals, and other considerations related to the educational services that the student will receive through the remainder of his or her enrollment at the school. For an exact breakdown of the required components of a student’s transition IEP, as well as additional rights, procedures, and considerations related to students of transition age, refer to Article 7.
What Topics Should be Considered when Creating a Transition Plan for an Individual with ASD?
The process of transition planning is specific to the needs, skills, desires, interests, and abilities of the individual, so there is no single path or plan that is appropriate for all individuals. An effective plan should account for the individual’s unique preferences and goals and be developed with input from the individuals, his or her parents, and school/other professionals with a thorough understanding of what is appropriate for the individual.
While no two transition plans are the same, the Individuals with Disabilities Education and Improvement Act (IDEIA) and Indiana’s Special Education Rules (known as “Article 7”) outline a number of considerations that should be accounted for when developing and reviewing an individual’s transition IEP, with goals set based upon the specific aspects of an individual’s life. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Facilitating a student’s movement to post-school activities, including:
- Postsecondary education
- Vocational training
- Community employment
- Adult services
- Independent living or
- Community participation
- Assessing the individual’s needs, strengths, and preferences as they relate to:
- Academic instruction
- Community experiences
- Post-school adult living aspirations, such as employment or postsecondary education
- Daily living skills
- Determining whether the individual will pursue a high school diploma or certificate of completion
- Developing measurable goals related to achieving the individual’s preferred post-school objectives (such as education, employment, etc.)
- Establishing appropriate transition services and agencies to assist the student in reaching postsecondary goals
- Identifying necessary accommodations and/or placement to assist the individual in achieving postsecondary goals
Assessing an individual’s interests, preferences, and strengths in conjunction with his or her current level of academic achievement will help identify the appropriate postsecondary goals as they relate to education, employment, and/or independent living, as well as the necessary diploma or certificate that the individual should work to obtain. Upon the establishment of these objectives, the necessary transition services, annual goals, and benchmarks can be determined and reviewed to ensure the individual’s course of study aligns with his or her postsecondary goals.
In addition to a transition IEP within the school setting, individuals and families may choose to develop transition plans related to other aspects of an individual’s life. Just as a transition IEP takes into account an individual’s unique skills, abilities, preferences, interests, and needs, transition plans within other settings should be specific to the individual and his/her particular situation. The LifeCourse Framework, developed by the National Community of Practice for Supporting Families of Individuals with Intellectual and Development Disabilities, provides a helpful series of tools to help families and individuals map out a successful life for individuals of all ages and across community settings. This framework may help complement an individual’s transition IEP or prove to be beneficial as he or she transitions into different stages of adult life, faces new challenges, or develops new skills and interests. Long-term transition planning is designed to be an ongoing process that reflects an individual’s continual development and shifting needs, so transition plans should be frequently reviewed, adjustment, and updated to ensure it meets the specific needs of the individual.
What is the role of the family in the transition process?
One of the most important aspects of transition planning is ensuring that the individual’s wants and needs remain at the forefront of the planning process. Parents and other family members are an individual’s primary advocates, and they serve an important role in the transition process. Families should help the individual prepare for transition by helping them develop independent life skills (such as decision-making, daily living skills like cooking and cleaning, etc.), helping the individual to explore and define goals for life after high school, and ensuring that the individual is always the focus of the planning process. Parents are encouraged to attend all IEP meetings and take an active role as part of the individual’s case conference committee (CCC), contact and visit agencies within the area that provide resources and supports for transition-age individuals, and maintain open communication with teachers and other providers in an individual’s life to ensure the transition plan fully supports the individual’s preferences and needs. Individuals and their families are the primary decision makers in the transition planning process, so they are tremendously valuable in realizing a successful life for individuals with ASD.
- Autism Resource Network of Indiana (ARNI)
- Autism Society: Adulthood
- Autism Society of Indiana: Transition to Independence
- Autism Speaks
- Easterseals Crossroads
- Family and Social Services Administration: Vocational Rehabilitation Services
- HANDS in Autism® Interdisciplinary Training & Resource Center
- Indiana Department of Education: Laws, Rules and Interpretations
- Indiana Secondary Transition Resource Center
- Indiana University Center on Community Living & Careers: Transition
- IN*SOURCE Transition Guide
- Interactive Autism Network: Coming of Age: Autism and the Transition to Adulthood
- Riley Hospital for Children and Indiana University Health: Center for Youth & Adults with Conditions of Childhood (CYACC)
- The Arc of Indiana
- The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health: GotTransition.org