How Can My Child With Autism Be Assisted In A Productive Transition From High School To College?

Dr. Wagner answers the question: 'Transition From High School To College?'

BySheila Wagner, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Emory Autism Center, Emory University School of Medicine
September 29, 2008, 3:58 PM

Oct. 23, 2008 -- Question: How can my child with autism be assisted in a productive transition from high school to college?

Answer: Well it's very important for the student with autism to be an integral part of that transition plan and in making those decisions for the lifelong goals that they have and they're looking at at that point. By law, the student who turns 14 is now to be invited into that IEP meeting, and although many parents may decide to overrule that decision and not want that child there, it is really important that they are a part of this process and, in fact, not just at 14 but even earlier, even as early as the elementary years. Because the student at that age and through the ages of the educational years really does need to learn how to be a self-advocate and the self-determination of making their wishes known. If they started that process in the elementary years and carried them through to the middle and high school years, then that person, when they turn 14, is going to have a better idea of what this process is, what their wishes are, and make themselves known.

Too often in the educational world, the adults are making the decisions for this person. They're not really asking what this student really wants in their life. Most individuals with this disability want to be included into the community in which they live and so those wishes need to be made known. So their interests need to be asked at that time. They need to be a strong advocate for themselves. Let their wishes be known, and let the teachers and the parents know what it is that they want to be doing in their educational years because that's so important. Otherwise all of the adults are making the decisions for this person. It's also important for this person to be able to identify areas of need as far as what friends do they want to carry through into the adult years. Who are those friends going to be? So there needs to be a network of peer support that carries through from those years into the adult years, whether it's in a college setting after that, or whether it's going to be in a job or in a community somehow. So that carry-over effect with this whole network of friends and peer support is so important.

So probably the biggest thing that the student can do to make himself a part of this process is to inform himself of his own disability and what that means for his life, and then be able to offer information on what that means to him and what he is wanting to make in his life. So that yes, when he does make that transition into adult services, he has a much better idea of what he wants to do and have those goals achieved.

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