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Transitioning to Adulthood Resources for Children with Autism

Introduction

Every parent of a child with autism is going to face the day 'when the school bus stops coming'.  With lots of preparation, organization, and a strong support system, transitioning into adulthood might not be as daunting as it seems.  Preparation for transition begins as early as age 14 in the school district with the transitional IEP.  The IEP will include Community Base Instruction (CBI), which means going out into the community on a regular basis, and life skills training with measurable outcome strategies, which help prepare the student to be able to function as independently as possible.  The long term goal is to be able to eventually live and work in the community in some capacity.

Transitioning to adulthood should be focused on the areas of independent living skills which are the tools young adults need to navigate in today's world.  These tools should include safety skills, time management skills, daily living skills, work/study skills, self-care skills, social relationship building, personal finance management, community navigation skills, self-advocacy skills, home management skills, career planning skills, and work-life skills, which is the ability to merge all these skills.  Furthermore, life skills need to incorporate 'theory of mind' which is the ability to recognize other people's feelings and emotions, to be able to act appropriately, to have the ability to read body language and visual cues of others, to recognize and cope with emotions, and to reduce anxiety and stress.  Social skills should also include executive functioning skills which address the ability to plan, organize, utilize feedback, suppress stimuli and respond appropriately.

Also included in life skills is job training and development of soft skills needed to get a job, keep a job and become a good employee.  Life enrichment programs are also very useful to help with self-improvement, decision-making, task completion and community involvement.  Parents may reach out to family services and case coordination services in their community and make sure evaluations are preformed on adaptive functioning skills and strengths and weaknesses rather than IQ.  Autism is a spectrum disorder so some young adults will be able to work in the community, some need supported employment and others need employment programs.  Some may need to be in an autism day center which focuses on continual life skills training, job training, CBI, and an eventual part-time job in the community.  Others may be able to be in a day program for adults with different developmental disabilities.  Some may continue on to post secondary educational institutions such as universities and state colleges that provide accommodations for special needs, but not modified curriculum.  In the near future, however, modified curriculum will be available for special needs post secondary students.  In communities where there is no placement for young adults with autism, some families have started small businesses which benefit not only their young adult but also many others in the community.  Whatever pathway your young adult chooses in life, having independent life skills will be crucial in the transition to adulthood, and ultimately to leading a productive and meaningful life.

Related Sites

Interactive Autism Network: Adults with Autism Transition to Adulthood
Description:  The IAN community writes about the coming of age and transitioning to adulthood. They address transition to adult services, college, work, job training and much more.

Easter Seals: Autism After Age 21
Description:  As the nation’s largest provider of services and support for children and adults living with autism and their families, Easter Seals is highlighting its services for children with autism who grow up and “age out” of the school system.

IAN, Interactive Autism Network
Description:  This website has information and resources for families from newly diagnosed to autistic children transitioning to adulthood. The information for transitioning to adulthood includes college, healthcare, and housing among the topics for a young adult.

The Keswell School
Description:  Provides an intensive educational program for children, teens, and young adults diagnosed with ASD.

Madison House Autism Foundation
Description:  Madison House addresses the needs of adults on the autism spectrum. They provide support, opportunities and hope to adults with autism and their families.

The Help Group
Description:  This site offers programs and services for teens and young adults with autism. These services include coaching one on one, residential living programs, workshops, and college/career planning.

Care.com
Description:  This site offers special needs care.

Taft College - Transition to Independent Living Program
Description:  The Taft College Transition to Independent Living Program endeavors to provide an environment with: enriching collegiate experiences, interactive and inclusive environments, learning outcomes transferable to lifelong productivity, career education resulting in gainful employment, self- determination and knowledge of individual strengths, and empowerment through education.

Books

Promoting Health Care Transitions for Adolescents With Special Health Care Needs and Disabilities, by Cecily Betz "Ph.D. RN FAAN" (Editor), Wendy Nehring "Ph.D. RN FAAN" (Editor)
Description:  This book is a guide to plan health care transitions from childhood through adulthood. It is geared for professionals, but has many resources. The authors write from an academic and medical, nursing perspective.

The Complete Guide to Creating a Special Needs Life Plan: A Comprehensive Approach Integrating Life, Resource, Financial, and Legal Planning to Ensure a Brighter Future for a Person with a Disability 2013 by Hal Wright
Description:  This book is a guide to planning a meaningful life for a child with special needs. Written by a former certified financial planner, this book includes check lists to help organize the planning process.

Dear Diana: Diana's Guide to Independent Living For Adolescents and Young Adults With Different Learning Styles and Special Needs by Diana Bilezikian
Description:  This book was written from the perspective of a young woman diagnosed on the autism spectrum. She wrote this while she was attending a program for young adults with special needs, after graduating high school. The topics range from consumer and financial skills to interpersonal and communication skills.

Autism Transition Handbook by Brittany Hansen, M.Ed, Kate Dickey, and Todd Harris, Ph.D., Director of Autism Services
Description:  This site is a handbook designed to assist individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families by providing access to the most current and comprehensive information on the transition to adulthood.

AFLS Community Participation Skills Assessment Protocol (Assessment of Functional Living Skills) by James W. Partington, Ph.D. BCBA-D and Michael M. Mueller, Ph.D. BCBA-D
Description:  This book highlights 8 basic areas essential to gain independence for the child with autism. Over 250 functional life skills are assessed with this protocol.

A Full Life with Autism: From Learning to Forming Relationships to Achieving Independence by Chantal Sicile-Kira and Jeremy Sicile-Kira
Description:  A guide to help young autistic adults cope with resource services, separate living facilities, job searches, and satisfying relationships.

Preparing for Life: The Complete Guide for Transitioning to Adulthood for Those with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome by Jed Baker
Description:  Oftentimes young adults on the autism spectrum have difficulty transitioning into adulthood. This guide primarily focuses on the importance of developing good social skills in different environments including living arrangements, jobs, and college level learning. A great resource for caregivers, teachers, in addition to professionals.

Tools

Life Journey through Autism: A Guide for Transition to Adulthood
Description:  Peter Gerhardt PhD in collaboration with Organization for Autism Research (OAR) designed this guide to give parents, teachers, and other educational professionals an introduction to the transition to adulthood process.

Transition Tool Kit
Description:  The Autism Speaks Transition Tool Kit was created to serve as a guide to assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood. The kit includes a transition plan, community living, self-advocacy, employment and much more.

Autistic and Seeking a Place in the World
Description:  A year with Justin who is part of a new transition program getting him ready for an independent life as an adult.

Internet Resources for Families of Children with Disabilities
Description:  This site provides a wealth of Internet resources for families on education and transition and employment and independent living for young adults with disabilities who are transitioning to adulthood.

Parent Forums/Blogs

Some forums require you to sign in to Yahoo or Facebook to locate forum names.

Forum/Blog Name:  Challenges in Transition to Adulthood for Individuals with Autism
Description:  This government blog discusses the realistic challenges young adults with autism face in transition and what can be done to ensure a successful transition into adulthood.

Forum/Blog Name:  Autism and Parenting: Preparing Yourself for your Child’s Transition to Adult Life
Description:  Transitioning is a process that starts by defining what is important based on our principles, exploring options and creating new ones. This blog covers a winning game plan for transition.