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The transition from childhood through adolescence to young adulthood can evoke feelings of fear and uncertainty in parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Transition is the process of moving from one life stage to another. For an individual with autism, the goal is successful movement from secondary school to postsecondary programs and into the workplace. During this time students should be acquiring life skills to live as independently as possible. It is important for parents to begin this process as early as possible, ideally at age fourteen and continuing to adulthood.
Parents can easily become overwhelmed with the tasks involved in transition planning. There is much to learn and do during this transition process that is related to educational and community based services and programs, as well as legal and public benefits. The key is to learn, prepare and remain organized. There are many resources to help in Massachusetts as well as special education laws.
Many adolescents with ASD already have an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Under federal and state special education laws, beginning with the first IEP meeting when the child is 14 years old or younger if appropriate, the IEP must include appropriate goals and services based upon transition assessments related to education, employment training and independent living skills. In addition to the IEP, a Transition Planning Form (TPF) must be developed and updated annually.
Ideally, the team consists of the parents, young adult and school staff including a trained transition planner. High school students are encouraged to become involved in their own post school planning, and attend IEP meetings if they are able.
Parents have the option to seek independent evaluations and guidance from professionals regarding the needs of the young adult. Many organizations can provide information, support and guidance about the transition process through manuals, timelines and toolkits. Parents are encouraged to attend workshops and seminars related to transition on topics such as special education laws, chapter 688, state agencies, guardianship, public benefits and special needs financial planning. Mass ARC, Federation for Children with Special Needs, SEPACS, Autism Support Centers and the Lurie Center periodically offer transition related workshops.
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