Roadmap to the future - Transitioning into Adulthood with ASD
Preparing Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) for Adulthood
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General Questions About Transition | Postsecondary Transition Requirements | Special Policy Considerations for IEP Students

General Questions About Transition to Adulthood

These are questions asked by many self-advocates that many caregivers and educators don’t know how to answer or how to guide their children and students in finding answers. Parents and caregivers want their children, with and without autism, to be happy, healthy and to live fulfilling lives.

  • What are basic rights that all U.S. citizens take for granted, but that are difficult or almost impossible for people with disabilities to attain?
  • How can parents, educators, and other professionals assist young people in finding answers to these questions? 

1. What is meant by transition to adulthood?

People experience many changes as they become an adult. There may be changes to new environments. These may include:

  • Preparing for and getting a job
  • Participating in postsecondary training or education
  • Contributing to a household financially or in caring for a home
  • Participating in the community – i.e. volunteering, community transportation, seeking services from adult support agencies, adult medical care, leisure and recreational activities, etc.
  • Managing health and safety

2. When should I start thinking about transition to adulthood?

Preparing for adulthood is an ongoing process. Parents can begin to prepare their children adult responsibilities even when they are preschool age by giving them opportunities to make choices, such as, choosing clothes to wear, choosing from a selection of foods to eat, being able to express what they like and don’t like, and solving simple problems that occur in everyday life. During the elementary school years children can be involved in parent/teacher meetings or IEP meetings by talking about what they believe they do well and not so well, the classes they like and don’t like, and by developing self-management skills for completion of school assignments. They may even begin to express their career interests and strengths at the elementary and middle school age levels. Youth will also begin to take responsibility for doing simple chores at home. By the age of 16 the transition planning process is required by law through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) if the child is identified as needing special education services through a school district. The child’s plan is addressed in their Individualized Education Program (IEP). The student will be formally invited to their IEP meeting and should participate in the decisions that are made about goals for their future after they leave high school.

3. Which laws address transition to adulthood?

There are three major laws that address transition: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Americans Disabilities Act (ADA). Once the individual becomes an adult and is no longer in high school, the individual is no longer covered by protections under the IDEA. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA address protections for individuals with disabilities in employment and postsecondary training and education.

4. Who should be involved in the process of planning for the transition to adulthood?

community circleStudent Involvement in the IEP process is very important. Students can present their strengths, interests and challenges at their meeting and express what they desire their postsecondary goals to be. They may use various means to participate such as videos, drawings, powerpoint presentations or assistive technology devices. Young people with disabilities need a support system during the transition planning process that recognizes their individual strengths, interests, fears, and dreams and allows them to take charge of their future. Parents, teachers, family members, and friends in the community can offer informal guidance, support, and love for the individual. Other supports may include vocational rehabilitation representatives, independent living centers, social security benefits specialists, mental health or provider casemanagers, and medical personnel. The person-centered planning process is considered to be an effective planning tool to use.


5. As a parent, how can I prepare for the IEP meeting to discuss planning for the transition to adulthood?

Here are tips from the PACER Center for parents who are planning for transition during their IEP meeting. Missouri Parents ACT (MPACT), parent training and information center, has numerous resources regarding transition and preparation for IEP meetings.

6. How can I help my child prepare for their IEP meeting?

Begin taking your child to their IEP meeting when they are younger to express what their interests are, what they do well and the challenges they believe they have. If they need to use an assistive technology device or pictures in order to participate in the meeting, work with them on being able to express the purpose of the meeting and what they desire their goals for the future to be. Discuss their interests with them and help them learn how to tell others about how experiencing autism affects their life. Here is the NICHCY A Student’s Guide to the IEP.

7. How do we develop a postsecondary goal that is realistic and attainable?

Involving the individual in the interpretation of the transition assessment process and also in development of the IEP can help the person to identify attainable postsecondary goals. It can also be helpful to ask more probing “wh” questions, such as, “Why do you want to do that”, “Where do you want to be”, or “What do you like about that job?”

8. What is Self-Advocacy?

people firstParents advocate and make decisions for their child for most of their child’s life. However, as individuals with autism age, they will need to advocate to the best of their ability for themselves. It is important to help adolescents with autism to develop a sense of self. This is a skill that takes practice, direct instruction and time. Self-advocacy develops from an awareness of self, an ability to self-monitor progress or actions and to explore what it means to have autism. The individual learns to self-assess a problem and then expresses their needs. Parents can model self-advocacy at home, teachers can provide curricula in school and peers can advise of strategies that have helped them to self-advocate. Self-advocacy means speaking up for yourself, asking for what you need, negotiating for yourself by reaching an agreement that will meet your needs, knowing your rights and responsibilities and knowing the resources that are available.


9. As a self-advocate, how do I know if I should disclose that I have a disability when I go to college or get a job?

It is an individual decision whether to disclose that you have a disability when you get a job. One of the most important things to know when getting a job is what tasks are required or what the job responsibilities are. This type of information will help the individual to know what challenges there may be and whether they will possibly need accommodations. Resources regarding employment are: National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability and the Job Accommodation Network. When going to college, the student may be able to receive accommodations in classes if they disclose their disability. The student needs to contact the Office of Disability at the college to receive information about possible accommodations and procedures. It is important to know what the requirements for a course are in order to know what challenges they may have in taking the course.

10. What are the most common adult service agencies in my community that can help youth as they become adults?

    • Vocational Rehabilitation
    • Centers for Independent Living
    • Social Security Administration
    • Department of Mental Health
    • Regional Office
    • Community Action Agency
    • Senate Bill 40 County Residential Agencies in Missouri MACDDS

11. What support organizations are there for individuals with autism who are becoming adults or are already adults?

12. What do I need to know about transfer of rights and age of majority?

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), upon reaching the age of 18, parent procedural rights transfer to the student unless the student has been declared incompetent by a court of law and a guardian has been appointed by the court.  Thus, at age 18, the student becomes the educational decision-maker and will receive all notices required under the IDEA.  If the student at age 18, is still a dependent of the parent as defined in Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Service Code of 1954, then the parent will be provided copies of any notices provided to the student, and may attend IEP meetings at either school district or student invitation, and access the educational records of the student at the discretion of the school district.

13. What is meant by the term “medical transition” and what does health have to do with transition planning?

doctorIt is not common practice to identify health-related needs and goals when developing a statement of transition services within a student’s IEP. However, lack of attention to health needs and health management can jeopardize goals for learning, working, and living safely in the community. For this reason it is important that young people with disabilities and special health needs know how to manage their own health care as much as they are able to do so and work with appropriate professionals as partners in their care. Health is an important factor to include in the plan even if chronic health concerns do not exist. All people must deal with health problems and learn how to maintain good health. Transferring responsibility for self-care to an adolescent is a complex process. It requires assessing a variety of factors, including the complexity of a youth’s health needs, his or her physical and cognitive abilities and degree of self-determination, as well as family factors.

Postsecondary Transition Requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

1. What are the areas that are required to be addressed in the IEP for transition planning?

classroomThe Transition Plan in the IEP is developed considering the individual student’s needs, preferences and interests. The plan must be completed, not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the student turns 16, and is updated annually. Postsecondary goals address goals for individual to achieve after graduation from high school, but are developed by the IEP team while still in school in the areas of Education or Training, Employment and Independent Living. Services and coursework that are needed to support the goals are also addressed. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has a sample form for school districts to use when developing the transition plan in the IEP.

2. What is meant by transition assessment?

The transition plan is based on the individual student’s needs, preferences and interests, so these areas need to be assessed while the individual is in school prior to the development of the transition plan. This can be done either informally or formally. There is not one single transition assessment or set of tests. It is important for parents and youth to share their vision for the future. Sharing where they believe the individual will live, whether they plan to pursue postsecondary education and training, what leisure activities they have an interest in, and what work experiences they would like to have can assist in identifying interests and aptitudes. There are various resources available to assess these areas for transition planning. Here is a dream sheet to help in sharing your vision. For more information about transition assessment see questions #3, #4 and #5.

3. What methods of gathering information qualify as age-appropriate transition assessment, but would NOT have to be done through a reevaluation at school?

“Age appropriate” means chronological age rather than developmental age. When information is not being obtained directly from the student, then consent is not required to be provided in the context of reevaluation while in school. Examples of such assessments may include:

  • Parent interview
  • Teacher surveys
  • Behavior Observations
  • Situational Assessments
  • Observational Rating Scales
  • Curriculum-Based Assessments
  • Observational Checklists
  • Person-Centered Planning
  • Environmental Assessments

4. What transition assessments are appropriate for an individual that experiences autism?

alt=""Assessments should be based on the individual’s strengths, interests, experiences and needs. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is complex and varies greatly among individuals. Therefore, sources of historical data about successful strategies and supports for the individual are important to include in the assessment process so that the information is not forgotten and transfers to the new setting.

An independent living assessment is important to include for individuals with ASD. These assessments related to adaptive behavior and independent living skills are NOT reserved only for individuals who are less capable. High-functioning individuals with ASD or Asperger’s Syndrome may require extensive assessment. The assessment should begin earlier than age 16 and may even be appropriate to do while in middle school in order to identify instructional strategies for learning new skills while they are still in school to prevent problems later when the individual is older, such as age 17 or 18 and does not have the independent skills necessary for the educational, work or community living environment. Here is an example of an Independent Living checklist developed by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Self-determination skills are also important to assess. Self-determination skills are personal or interpersonal skills that include acceptance of oneself, knowing how your disability affects your learning and how you live in the community, understanding what you need for support and being able to overcome obstacles. There are several self-determination assessment tools. Well-known assessments are the AIR, ARC, Choicemaker and Field and Hoffman.

Career interest inventories and job exploration opportunities can provide valuable information in making decisions about careers that would be successful and determining postsecondary goals. Assessments such as the Kuder or Missouri Connections provide information about interests, skills and work values.

Another transition assessment that is specific to individuals with autism is the TEACCH Transition Assessment Profile (TTAP) and is available for purchase through Pro-Ed.

5. When is parental consent required for transition assessment?

Parental consent is required to conduct any individual assessment. If the assessment is given to all students in a class, grade, building or district-wide, it is not considered an individual assessment.

6. How often should transition assessments be completed?

Transition assessment will need to be completed before the student turns age 16 and is required to have a transition plan. After that point, a transition assessment would be needed when the IEP team decides it is necessary to have additional information for further transition planning purposes.

7. Can a student earn credits through meeting the goals and objectives in their IEP?

Yes. Any specific graduation requirement may be waived for a student with a disability if recommended by the IEP team. The following is from The Graduation Requirements for Students in Missouri Public Schools handbook.

Special Policy Considerations For Students With Disabilities Under IDEA

Each school district must provide a free, appropriate public education for students with disabilities until they are graduated with a regular diploma or attain the age of 21 years. Local school boards must establish policies and guidelines that ensure that students with disabilities have the opportunity to earn credits toward graduation in a nondiscriminatory manner and within the spirit and intent of that requirement. Provisions include:

• Any specific graduation requirement may be waived for a disabled student if recommended by the IEP Committee.

• Students with disabilities receive grades and have credit transcripted in the same manner as all other students when they complete the same courses as other students.

• Students with disabilities who complete regular courses modified as indicated in their IEPs to accommodate their disabilities will receive grades and have credit transcripted in that same manner as students who complete the same courses without modification; however, the fact that the courses were modified may be noted on the transcripts.

• Students with disabilities who meet the goals and objectives of their IEPs, as measured by the evaluation procedures and criteria specified in the IEPs, will have credit transcripted in accordance with the state definition of units of credit.

• All students with disabilities who meet state and local graduation requirements by taking and passing regular courses without modification; taking and passing regular courses with modification; or successfully achieving IEP goals and objectives shall be graduated and receive regular high school diplomas.

• Students with disabilities who reach age 21, or otherwise terminate their education, and who have met the district’s attendance requirements but who have not completed the requirements for graduation, receive a certificate of attendance.

8. Can a student graduate with a regular diploma if they receive credit through successfully completing their goals and objectives in their IEP?

Yes. Any specific graduation requirement may be waived if recommended by the IEP Committee.
Please see question #9.

9. Where can I find Missouri guidelines about state requirements for graduation?

The Graduation Requirements for Students in Missouri Public Schools handbook provides guidance on special policy considerations for students with disabilities.

How the student earns credits towards graduation is an IEP team decision that should be made on an individual basis for each student. When a student graduates by meeting IEP goals the student earns a regular diploma. Another resource on this topic is a technical assistance guidance document by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Grading, Awarding Credit and Graduation for Students with Disabilities.

Where do I start?
alt=""What steps do you need to take to plan for the future of an individual with ASD?
Transition Roadmap
Follow the roadmap to find resources that will help individuals with ASD as they transition into adult life.
mu logoThompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Missouri 205 Portland Street Columbia, Mo. 65211 | Phone: 573-882-6081 | E-mail: Copyright © 2011 — Curators of the University of Missouri. All rights reserved. DMCA and other copyright information. An equal opportunity/affirmative action institution. Last updated: May 19, 2011