Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what’s to come.
- The Wonder Years television show
I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand.
- Og Mandino
Both parents of young people with autism, and young people with autism have high hopes for adulthood.
Yet the road ahead may seem daunting.
It helps to have a road map for the journey ahead.
Here are some tips and resources I’ve found to prepare for the journey.
In the United States, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates public education for children ages 3-21. One of the goals in that act is to prepare students for employment and independent living.
Under this legislation, young people with autism usually have a written Individualized Education Plan (IEP). As young people progress through junior high and high school, this plan should include goals for independent living and employment which are outcome oriented; based on students’ strengths and areas of need; and focused on instruction, services, or education that help the young person gain employment and living skills.
Tips for Parents of Young People With Autism
Read Your Teenager’s IEP
Have you taken the time to check the goals of that plan?
Are there further goals/outcomes you can make at home to help your teenager grow even more?
Partner with Your School Personnel
Not always, but often, rifts can form between school staff and parents. Remember that you’re all on the same team. Work on being as positive and involved as possible in your teen’s junior high and high school activities. For instance, you may serve on a parent committee or help raise funds for different clubs your child may be involved in. As you get involved, you’ll forge informal bonds with school staff. You’ll be seen as a giver and not a complainer. And staff will be more willing to partner with you about whatever challenges may come up in the future.
Talk To Your Young Person About Her Goals and Dreams
Encourage your teenager to learn to set goals in all areas of his life.
Set your own personal goals and share them with your teen, so that she can see your example.
Then work together to meet those goals.
Buy a Copy of Living Well on the Autism Spectrum.
In this book, Dr. Valerie Gaus uses a strengths based, positive psychology approach to help young people live well on the autism spectrum.
Dr. Gaus, a psychologist, has worked for years with young people with high functioning autism. She understands the strengths and unique differences of the autism spectrum.
Her book is full of questionnaires, assessments, and practical tools to help young people:
- learn the unspoken rules of social situations
- improve communication skills
- get organized at home and at work
- manage anxiety and depression
- strengthen relationships with family and friends
- live more successfully on one’s own or with others
Start reading and implementing these solutions early on, and the solutions will serve you (or your teenager if you are a parent) during the transition to adulthood.
Free Resources: Living With Autism and Transition to Adulthood
Autism After 16 http://autismafter16.com/
Autism After 16 is [a site] dedicated to providing information and analysis of adult autism issues, with the emphasis on analysis. Anyone can Google “autism + adults” and discover a vast array of programs, documents, and products. Our intention here is to try to help adults with ASD and their families make sense of what’s out there. Our big focus out of the gate will be Transition issues, since so many of you are struggling with Transition right now.
Autism Society Transition Guide
Life’s Journey Through Autism: A Guide for Transition To Adulthood
I hope you found this article helpful. What other resources and tips can you offer?
photo credit: Robertosch