Steps to the Future | Scenarios | Assessing the Situation| Taking Action
WHAT STEPS DO I NEED TO TAKE TO PLAN FOR THE FUTURE?
Why do we need to plan for the future? Becoming an adult presents new challenges for young people, especially those with autism. As individuals and their families and educators prepare for the future they must prepare for a time without the daily structure of school. Without a plan, adult supports and services may not be in place when they are needed. This means that the planning process is a time of discovery, setting goals, and linking with services and supports to help make the transition from adolescence to adult life as smooth as possible.
Consider these scenarios
David is an individual who has Asperger’s syndrome, is very bright, excels in math and science and is making adequate progress in language arts and history while in school. However, he lags behind in socialization with his same-age peers and in maturation. He makes socially embarrassing comments to others and stares at women. He gets upset when directed to do something and dislikes changes in routine or interruptions while doing a task. He was diagnosed in his early teen years. David is full of energy, has potential, but has limited work skills at this time.
The family and professionals who work with David have asked themselves these questions…
- Could he excel in a job one day or could he have his own business?
- How can he improve his socialization skills?
- Will he be able to live independently?
- Can he manage his own health care needs?
Sue developed typically until about 18 months. At that point, her social and communication development decreased. Her language was not typical and even though she knew words, she would ask for most things by referring to herself in the third person as a statement. For instance she might say, “Sue gets a drink now”. She had no interest in playing with other children, preferring to line up objects and participate in rituals such opening and closing doors. She is able to recite entire dialogues seen on television shows. She was educated in a special education classroom for reading and math, functioning on about a third grade level in these subjects, but participated in science, social studies, music, art, physical education, and computer in the general education classroom. She is now in high school and has some self-care skills, needing reminders to brush her teeth, shower and use deodorant. She does not cook or prepare food on her own. She has some self-injurious behaviors, scratching herself and tearing her clothing. She also exhibits some screaming behaviors when upset. She has not had a job experience or done any job exploration activities, to date. However, having money to buy DVDs is an incentive for Sue.
The family and professionals who work with Sue have asked themselves these questions…
- What type of plan would help us to plan for her future?
- How can we capitalize on her strengths when planning for employment?
- Do her current goals in her Individualized Education Program (IEP) fit with her goals for the future?
- What services and supports does she need in order to live as independently as possible?
- How can we help her begin to manage her own health care needs?
- What kind of work would interest her and how can we discover this?
- Where can she go in the community to participate in leisure activities?
- Where can she live?
Jim is a teenager with autism. From birth his parents knew something was different. He seemed to be “in a world of his own” and did not talk by the age of 2 years. He fixates on spinning or objects that spin and flaps his hands. He is content, but when adults or same-age peers attempt to do activities with him he may scream or run away. He does not respond to his name. These facts cause safety concerns. Jim has received his education in special education classrooms. He verbally uses only a few words such as no, eat, drink and bathroom. Those who know him can tell his mood by the vocal utterances he makes. He has some self-injurious behaviors such as hitting his head and biting his hands. He does not like changes to his environment. He needs close supervision as he hides his clothing, sometimes, stuffing them in the toilet. He likes various sports. He also enjoys putting things together and taking them apart. He has good visual memory and coordination, putting puzzles together quickly. He notices detail and can locate objects quickly.
The family and professionals who work with Jim have asked questions similar to those asked in the previous scenarios…
- What are the strengths Jim has to build upon?
- What types of positive behavior plans are needed?
- What are safety and emergency preparedness activities he can learn and how can we work with law enforcement to ensure his safety?
- What community-based training might help for developing employment and life skills?
- What are our priorities?
Assessing the Situation (Discovery)
The scenarios above indicate the many unique characteristics that an individual with autism may have and how they may respond to the world in very different ways from one another. Here are videos featuring a young man named Taylor describing what his life is like as an individual with ASD:
- Video 1 - characteristics of autism in Taylor's early life
- Video 2 - sensory and communication in Taylor's life
- Video 3 - the process of self-discovery for Taylor
There is no one profile or set of behaviors across a disability. How these characteristics manifest themselves in the teenage years depends on the level of functioning for the individual with ASD. Indivdiuals who have significant challenges and who have ASD develop skills for adulthood through instructional programs like TEACCH and school to work programs such as Project Search for young adults ages 18-21. Project SEARCH was founded by Erin Reihle in 1996. The program combines career exploration and classroom instruction in the workplace allowing students to discover their strengths and explore job opportunities for their adult life.
Because, each person has his or her own strengths, interests and needs, a process of discovery to help them define who they are must be used to guide the planning process. Once the family, including the individual with ASD, and professionals identify the questions needing to be answered, as in the scenarios above, the questions can then serve as a guide for identifying the best method or tools in finding answers for this discovery process. Transition assessments may be informal or more formal. The following areas may need to be considered for assessment:
- Academic Interests
- Vocational Interests
- Independent Living Skills
- Health Care Transitions
- Social Relationships
Planning for the future means you will need to set some goals and develop a plan for how you will reach the goals. The purpose for assessing or discovering what your needs, abilities and interests are is to use the information as a guide for setting goals. Goals can include things such as where and how the person will live, how they will be involved in their health care, what type of job they will have, what training or additional education they may need and what supports and services they may need as an adult. When making decisions about your future it is important to set goals and make an action plan for meeting the goals. It’s also important to identify the supports that will be needed along the way.
To set a goal, it is best to write it down. Use I statements to write the goal, “ I will……after high school”. Goals need to be SMART.
They need to be:
Look at these examples of goal statements:
- I will receive on-the-job training within one month after graduation from high school to work in the public library.
- I will attend a two-year technical school to take courses in graphic design during Fall 2011 semester.
- I will live in an apartment with twice-daily support within one year after graduation from high school.