Independent Teens with AutismWhat parent doesn’t want their child to lead the best life possible? The parent of an autistic child is no different. Envisioning a life of independence and stress-free transitioning into adulthood is sometimes all a parent can think of as a teen nears graduation day. For special needs teens, the transition is trickier, but success is still certainly achievable!

Transition Plan

Throughout the high school years, parents of autistic children should gradually craft a thorough transition plan. Though many times a plan is seemingly thought through, execution of it can be tumultuous if it’s not planned far in advance with great depth and detail.

The plan begins and with the family, those who know the child’s needs and wants, what he or she is and is not capable of. The family alone knows what works and what doesn’t, and they can have a good idea of what the child needs when he or she is on their own.

The transitional plan must take into account the family’s thorough knowledge of and wants for the child, but the child’s input is essential, too. Tapping into what he or she wants for their life after high school will play an important role in developing their self-determination. It’s important for the teen to have control over their decisions, so invite them into the discussion about, for example, what school to attend that will best lead them into a life of independence.

Autistic Teen WorkingIndependence

Don’t let the word ‘independence’ intimidate you. It’s easy to say you want your child to one day lead a life of their own, but how many of us truly do that? No matter how independent you are, whoever you are, there remains a need for networks, friends, family — strong relationships.

Transitioning from high school to college, particularly for special needs teens, should without a doubt involve a strong support system. Look at schools where there are trustworthy friends and/or family, because sometimes it really does take a village. And that’s OK.

After 18

When a child turns 18, the parental rights are lost, which includes the right to make decisions regarding your teen’s educational future. Going back to having early-on discussions with your teen, this is an important factor to bring into the talk.

Since autism is a developmental disability, we know that a number doesn’t signify that a child has become an adult overnight. The teen will need guidance, so discuss with him or her the need for them to sign over parental rights to you, so you can continue playing a role in their successful future. Prefaced with months of preparatory discussions, have a document drawn up and ready to sign on the 18th birthday, and not a moment later.

Want more resources?

Try these:

Transition to Adult Living: A guide for Secondary Education

Transition Toolkit, from Autism Speaks

The Autism Transition Handbook

And as always, share with us your experience!