Adulthood Transition Planning for Students with Autism

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Helping students with autism transition out of school and toward adulthood can be challenging, but it is an important part of supporting them. This lesson discusses some of the issues related to adulthood transition planning.

Reaching the End of School

Brian has been working with high school students who have autism in a self-contained special education setting, one where they learn separately from their typically developing peers, for the last five years.

Though Brian feels good about the strides he is able to make with students academically and socially, he has realized lately that he would like to spend more time thinking about preparing them for what will come once they leave his class.

In other words, Brian is ready to focus on transition planning for his students with autism. In general, transition planning means thinking about what supports a student with autism might need when they leave the school system and move toward adulthood. This transition for students typically begins at 16, but might begin as early as 14.

Brian knows that transition planning can look very different for different students. It depends on their desires, their academic and social abilities, their families hopes, and the resources available for them. Still, Brian knows there are some basic categories he will want to think about for all of his students.

Planning for Independent Living

One of the most important elements of transition planning is thinking about where students will live, who they will live with, and how they will manage the complexities of independent living when relevant. To work on this, Brian knows that he will have to talk explicitly with students and families about their goals for adult living situations.

Brian sometimes recommend that students live in group homes or with roommates for a time, or sometimes he thinks they are ready to live alone right away if they want to. Planning for independent living might involve:

  • working on financial planning and management skills
  • ensuring that the student will have opportunities to connect with others outside of the home
  • learning about household maintenance and available resources for help

Planning for Work

Many of Brian's students want to get a job right after high school, and Brian knows that students with autism can be very successful in the workplace. He connects his students with resources in the community who can help them find work that meets their strengths and needs.

Brian knows that there are some specific questions to think about as his students plan to enter the workforce. For example, he asks students to think about:

  • whether they are looking for a long- or short-term position
  • how to create a resume and conduct themselves during a job interview
  • how to interact with others on the job
  • how to advocate for themselves and their special needs in the workplace

Planning for Higher Education

Each year, several of Brian's students want to pursue higher education after high school. Many of his students with autism are academically successful and have impressive cognitive capacities. When these students are interested in transitioning to college, Brian works with them on:

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