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Postsecondary Plans, Employment, Housing
Your child may wish to continue his or her education upon completing high school. There are a variety of postsecondary options for individuals with autism. Deciding what model will work best for you child will help clarify which setting is most appropriate for your child’s schooling:
- Mixed/Hybrid model: A student enrolled in this type of program will take classes with individuals without disabilities for audit or credit. In addition to these classes, the student will take classes with other students with disabilities. These classes tend to focus on important life skills and are sometimes referred to as transition classes.
- Substantially separate model: In this program, the student takes classes only with other individuals with disabilities. However, they have the opportunity to interact with the entire student population by attending social activities held on campus.
- Inclusive individual support model: A student who receives education through this model will get individualized services for their college courses or degree program. Classes and employment opportunities are not based on a set course of study, but customized to the individual’s career and life goals.
Every educational institution is unique and will offer their own version of one or a combination of the above models. In general, these are the types of educational institutions and services they provide:
- Four-year college/university: There are many four-year institutions that offer services for students with disabilities. However, students enrolled in these schools must be able to self-advocate for the support and accommodations they require.
- Community colleges: Many community colleges across the nation have developed programs specifically for adults with disabilities. They tend to be more flexible and are a good alternative for individuals who may be overwhelmed by attending a four-year college.
- Cooperative education: Some colleges allow students to take classes while working in their chosen field. The benefit of a program like this is that individuals are simultaneously improving their academic and work skills.
- Vocational/Technical schools: In these schools, students have the opportunity to learn the exact skills needed for their chosen career paths. Vocational schools often provide actual work experience and allow your child to receive job-specific instruction.
Resources for postsecondary education:
- Navigating College | Autistic Self Advocacy Network
- College Students | The Arc
- College Coach – admission assistants to help find “match” schools and complete application process
- Section 504 | U.S. Dept. of Education
- OAR Scholarships for students on the autism spectrum
Obtaining a job is one of the primary objectives of transition planning. Choice of employment should be based on your child’s needs, skills and abilities as well as the job requirements. Prior to selecting a job, individuals may benefit from internships, volunteering or job sampling in order to get a feel for what type of work will be the right fit. There are several types of employment options for individuals on the autism spectrum:
- Competitive employment: A full-time or part-time job with no long term support.
- Supported employment: A competitive job with support services that continue for the duration of employment.
- Customized employment: A job in a typical business setting created specifically for an individual based on specific strengths and abilities.
- Secured employment: Individuals work in a self-contained unit and aren’t integrated with workers without disabilities.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a job, but individuals with autism tend to focus on:
- Hours of employment: Many individuals who have no job experience may need time to adjust to working a full shift.
- Social interaction: Different work environments have different levels of social interaction. Consider how comfortable your child is with working with others and their comfort level with strangers.
- Job expectations: Are the expectations clear? Are tasks similar from day to day or will your child be expected to adjust on a daily basis?
To find employment, start by contacting your state employment or state department of vocational rehabilitation office. Mental health departments and social services offices may also be helpful.
Resources for employment:
- Books | Autistic Self Advocacy Network
- Job Accommodation Network | US Dept. of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy
- Employment | Autism Society
- Autism Source – Directory of Services
- Office of Disability Employment Policy | U.S. Dept. of Labor
- Youth | National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability
One of the top priorities for families is securing living arrangements for their young adult with autism. Finding options can be a difficult and lengthy process so it is imperative that families start planning as early as possible. While your school will certainly provide you with a few ideas, we encourage you to reach out to local and state agencies for further recommendations. Other families with a relative with autism can also be a good resource. It is important to consider the following when discussing living arrangements for your child:
- Where will your child be happy and feel safe?
- Which supports will your child need? How can these supports be provided?
- Where will your child thrive? What setting will allow your child to continue to grow and develop as an individual?
There is no one option that works best for the wide spectrum of adults with autism. Families must work together to consider the setting that works best for their child. The following are housing options that families have to choose from:
- Transitional living: These programs provide intensive life skills training lasting anywhere from one month to two years. There are different types of programs with some that fall under the category of college support programs and others that aim to prepare individuals for an independent life.
- Supported living: These programs provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities who live in their own leased or self-owned home. Caregivers live off site and provide client-directed instruction.
- Supervised living: These programs allow for more direction and guidance than supported living. Generally, individuals live in leased or self-owned homes, usually with no more than two individuals per unit. The caregivers live on site and staff is available 24/7.
- Group homes: These care facilities are actual homes in the community that house up to eight individuals. Unlike supported and supervised living, the house is typically owned by the provider. Caregivers and staff live on site and are available 24/7. Daily instruction is provided on basic life and self-help skills in order to increase the independence of residents.
Resources for housing:
- Housing | Homes for Autism
- Coalition for Community Choice
- Autism Housing Network
- Opening Doors | Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center
- Housing Choices Coalition
- Autism Residential Placement Options | Child Autism Parent Cafe
Whether looking for housing, employment or postsecondary education opportunities, your career center or office of vocational rehabilitation can be a helpful resource. Below is a link containing the contact information for the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation for each state:
These agencies can be useful when it comes to determining an individual’s strengths along with his or her likes and dislikes. It may be beneficial to invite a representative from your state or local vocational rehabilitation office to join in on your child’s Transition IEP meeting.
Other beneficial reources for the transition of your young adult include:
- National Association of Developmental Disabilities Council
- National Council on Independent Living
- National Organization on Disability
The transition process is an exciting, yet sometimes challenging time for families. Change is never easy so it is important for families to start talking about the transition phase as soon as possible. With so many factors affecting the transition process, it is important that you keep in mind that your child and your family are the best judges of what supports and services are necessary and what goals are attainable. Make sure your young adult’s voice is heard throughout the process and encourage him or her to self-advocate.