Transitions and Independence

entering-adult-life-with-autism-pdf_page_1Every year about this time, parents and students find themselves thinking about the coming close of the school year. As with most transition periods, it can be a time of ambivalence – joy interspersed with anxiety or fear. Summer vacations, sun and warm weather (will we really see any this year?) fill the thoughts of many, while going away to college, having new experiences and new challenges come to mind for others. And for some, the question foremost in their thoughts is “What happens now?”

Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) find transitions of any type difficult, and the transition from school (high school or college) to a life without school can be especially challenging for students and parents. While students may receive lots of support from the schools prior to leaving free public education settings, the support found at colleges is generally much less and will require that the student be proactive by asking for assistance.

Kara Hume, a co-principal investigator of a study conducted at the University of North Carolina’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and the School of Education notes that independence is the biggest indicator of which students with ASD are likely to live on their own, have a job, and participate in their communities after high school. Her research from the University of North Carolina supports the importance of teaching independence to adolescents with ASD, and the use of visual schedules at home, school and work settings to support independence. You can read what she has to say here. Visual schedules and task schedules (such as the one seen here) are an integral part of early interventions for children with ASD as well as in structured teaching models. When we teach young children to use visual schedules and task schedules for different activities we provide them with the tools they need to independently accomplish things.

To read more about promoting long term success in students with ASD, check out the current issue of “Remedial and Special Education.” This is a special issue on “Autism, Adolescence, and High School.” The abstracts (free) of the articles can be seen here. You might also wish to read TAP’s publication describing how parents can help prepare for the child’s transition into adulthood here.

Russell J. Bonanno, M.Ed.

TAP Program Manager

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