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Transitioning into Adulthood
The transition from adolescence into adulthood can be an exciting, yet daunting time for young adults with ASD. This period may involve entering a new environment, handling different social situations and accepting changes in a comfortable routine. The transition may be challenging, but can usher in opportunities for self-advocacy and independence. Young adults can consider their own interests and make choices about whether to continue their education, begin a career or become part of a community.
Each individual with autism is different and transitioning may be easier or more difficult depending on the person. With support and careful planning however, many individuals with autism can successfully transition into adulthood and lead fulfilling lives.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA, 2004) requires a public education for all eligible children ages 3 through 21 (although some states may extend the age range). Under IDEA, public schools are responsible for providing the necessary supports and services to ensure all students have access to an education. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) process facilitates these requirements. Once a student receives a high school diploma or ages out of the school system, the IDEA-mandated services provided by the school are no longer available.
Therefore, the IEP process must include transition-planning services for all special education students at age 16 (some states may have a younger minimum age). You can always begin asking questions before that, and begin preparing for transition early on. The school district is responsible for providing the necessary transition services for the student to achieve the transition goals generated by the IEP team and stated in the IEP. It is also a good idea to keep track of your conversations with school personnel and any other coordinators about your child’s transition plans.
An important component of the IEP is the summary of performance (SOP). The SOP is required by IDEA and summarizes the academic achievement and functional performance of your child. The SOP must be completed during a student’s final year of high school and should include recommendations on how to help meet postsecondary goals.
IDEA does not specifically state what the SOP must contain, but some states have developed specific requirements. Check with your state’s Department of Education for a policy on the SOP process.
Prior to the transition-planning meeting, your school district will likely perform several assessments to help complete the SOP. The results of these assessments should be shared with you and your child prior to the meeting. Assessments may include pencil and paper tests, structured student and family interviews, situational-based assessments and curriculum-based assessments.