10 Ways to Help Your Teen on the Spectrum Transition to Adulthood

A recent article from Autism Speaks presents tips on how families can help their teen or young adult on the spectrum transition into adult life. Along with practical advice on topics like finance and employment are important considerations like “What Is My Child Good At?” and “Self-Advocacy.” Also included is a link to a handy Transition Toolkit.
1. Have a Plan!
Transition planning can start as early as age 14 and be built into a student’s IEP. One of the most important aspects of this planning will be the transition between school services and adult services. Starting a plan early can be critical to the headache-free success of the transition.
2. Obtain Eligibility for Services.
Because many states’ developmental disabilities agencies do not provide services for adults on the spectrum until their early twenties, it’s important to have a plan in place to cover the gaps. As part of their IEP, your teen’s school can provide job and life skills training up to the age of 21.
3. Explore Community Options.
Reaching out to the community where you live can provide meaningful transition resources. Research and consider joining local support groups. Become aware of and get involved in local autism events. Through community participation, young people on the spectrum often meet the people they will eventually work with and for. My Autism Team is a great tool to find community options and connect with other parents and families.
4. Become Familiar With Person-Centered Planning.
Person-centered planning begins with talking to your children about where and how they would like to live in the future. It’s important that they be involved in this process. Are they capable of independent living, or do they need assistance? The person-centered planning process should be implemented with your case manager through your state’s developmental disabilities agency. Some excellent resources for person-centered planning include Path [PDF] and inclusion.com. Also visit the Autism Speaks Housing & Community Living page.

5. Consider Financial Needs.
It’s never too early to start planning for the financial needs that will accompany the transition into adulthood. If possible, consider strategies such as a special needs trust. Be sure to obtain eligibility for SSI and SSDI and Medicaid. Look to disability.gov for information on additional local financial resources. Find out about your state’s ABLE account plan. ABLE stands for the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE Act), legislation that allows families to set up tax-free savings accounts to help individuals and families finance disability needs. Learn more about ABLE accounts [PDF]. 
6. Guardianship.
7. What About Employment?
8. What Is My Child Good At?
9. Post-Secondary Education.
10. Self-Advocacy.
For information on items 6–10, look to the article
One excellent resource you can use to help youth and young adults with autism and related disorders to identify talents, strengths, and skills is a book by Jackie Marquette, Ph.D. Becoming Remarkably Able: Walking the Path to Talents, Interests, and Personal Growth is an activity-based book that can help those on the spectrum build skills they can later use to get a job, join an organization, or meet new people.
Look to our recent blog post What Swimming Can Do When You Have Asperger's for more great ideas on keeping those on the spectrum active and fit.
Have you taken the first step in planning for your child’s transition into adulthood?

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