Monday, November 2, 2009

What Happens After High School?

The transition from high school to adulthood is a crucial time in the lives of many young adults on the Autism Spectrum, and it requires careful planning. I encourage the families I work with to start the planning process early. Many local resources, schools and supports groups may offer information, but frequently these events are only offered annually, so parents need to start gathering information early in the high school years. Get on those email lists!

As an example, here in San Francisco’s East Bay, The Orion Academy holds a post secondary transition seminar annually in March. The Springstone School has a monthly group for parents of children transitioning from high school, which is open to all families in the community. This year the Alameda County Public Health Department held their Transition Information Faire in March. I believe planning for the next faire is underway, and it is tentatively scheduled for March of 2010. Contra Costa’s Faire was in January, 2009, and I’m not sure what their plans are for next year.

One website that is useful no matter where in the country you live, is Inside College.com’s lists of Very Friendly Schools for Students with Asperger’s, and Friendly Schools for Students with Asperger’s. College is a big step, especially for those who are moving away from mom and dad, and finding an environment that offers extra support may mean the difference between success and failure.

In spite of the budget cuts, there is still some good information available from government agencies. For example, here in California, the Department of Developmental Services has a number of informative and relevant links and downloads.

Good career counseling is crucial for special needs individuals who are making the transition to adulthood. Individuals on the autism spectrum frequently have unique strengths and abilities, and highlighting those areas in career planning cannot be done too early. If your school doesn’t offer career planning, or they don’t seem to understand your child’s specific needs and strengths, you can find a therapist or career professional who can work with your family individually.

The whole transition process requires a lot of work and advance planning, mostly by parents. But I’ve learned from my clients that it’s much tougher to catch up if the steps aren’t taken early. Please consider taking some time now to research your own child’s options.