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Where to begin? Planning for your Autistic Child’s Transition to Adulthood

Where to begin? Planning for your Autistic Child’s Transition to Adulthood

The transition from school to adulthood is a pivotal time in the lives of all students. For an autistic student, change of any kind can be challenging, and a transition as momentous as this can seem especially daunting.

As a parent of an autistic young adult, you have already accomplished a lot, from coping with the diagnosis to addressing all the challenges you may have faced over your child’s school years. And you will continue to play a large role in the transition-related self-discovery and planning process for your autistic young adult. Thoughtful planning, sound information, and open communication will help you support your young adult and their transition team to create a solid transition plan that leads to success.

Start small but think big! Before you begin the actual paperwork and planning with your young adult’s school and IEP team to implement the transition plan, you can start planning on your own to lay a foundation for the entire process. This article outlines a three-step process to:

  1. Facilitate thinking and brainstorming about your young adult’s future (Assessment)
  2. Begin planning future goals (Goal Writing)
  3. Understand realistic challenges to these plans (Anticipating Obstacles)
Step 1 – Assessment

As you begin the transition planning process, think about the “big picture” of your young adult’s future:

  • What do you want your child’s life to look like 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years from now?
  • What do you NOT want your child’s life to look like in 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years from now?
  • What will your child need in order to achieve the desired goals and avoid the undesired outcomes?

As a parent of an autistic child, you may have struggled to adjust your expectations for the future you once dreamed of for your child. Realistic, concrete goals and expectations are the foundation of a successful transition plan. It is important not only to set progressive goals that your child can reach, but also to challenge your child to grow. Leave room to be pleasantly surprised by all that they can achieve through this process! Transition doesn’t only apply to your loved one. It also applies to you – the parent. Parents have to be ready to allow their loved one to grow and learn through experiences, failures, and successes.

Throughout your transition planning, the concept of future quality of life is central. “Quality of life” basically refers to how satisfied your child feels about their education, work, recreation, spiritual life, social connections, community living, health, and emotional well-being. You may not have specific ideas about all of these areas, but you can start imagining what you would like for your young adult and what they would like for themselves as they transition out of high school. At different times in this process, you will begin to find connections among all of these areas and start to identify realistic and attainable goals.

Although quality of life is often as much about the process as it is about the product, neither process nor product should be compromised as part of transition planning. Once you have this broad vision in mind, start brainstorming about some of the specifics, such as personal interests, strengths and challenges, past learning history, and the supports that will be necessary for your child along the way.

Step 2 – Writing Overarching Goals

Later in the transition process, you will be asked to help determine – and write down – specific objectives you want your young adult to achieve. But now is the time to think of the broad, overarching goals that reflect the future you want for your young adult. You can think of this as a mission statement for the transition you envision.

Examples of overarching goals:

  • My child will be able to live independently.
  • My child will be comfortable and safe in a supported living situation.
  • My child will have two or three close relationships.
  • My child will contribute to the community.
  • My child will find satisfaction in several of their daily activities.

Overarching goals should build from the information you gathered in your assessment, regarding quality of life, personal interests, strengths and challenges, and past experience.

Step 3 – Anticipating Obstacles

Most goals are not meant to be easy to accomplish and meet in a short amount of time. But goals can be broken into smaller steps that can gradually be achieved, one at a time.

As you think of the skills, lessons, materials, and information you and your young adult need in order to move through the transition process successfully, obstacles may present themselves. For instance, as you created the list of goals for your young adult, did you think of any skills that they may need to be successful? Or resources that will help them accomplish these skills? Lack of any key “ingredient” may delay, if not stall, the transition process. So, if certain skills need development, such as effective communication, toileting, table manners, cell phone use, or personal hygiene, now is the time to create a strategy to develop them.

Obstacles may appear along the way, but you are building a solid plan that can be revised and modified to accommodate the changing needs, desires, and skills of your young adult.

Want more tips for your autistic child’s transition to adulthood? Download or order a free copy of Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide for Transition to Adulthood.

This post was adapted from Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide for Transition to Adulthood. Click here to check out this resource.

The post Where to begin? Planning for your Autistic Child’s Transition to Adulthood first appeared on Organization for Autism Research.

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