Emily D Iland - transition for students with autismEmily Iland, Los Angeles educational consultant and ASD spokesperson, discusses problems faced by students on the spectrum as they leave high school. Part 2 will discuss specific transition supports for college bound students.

Bright students with “high functioning” autism or Asperger Syndrome face paradoxical challenges which can look like a combination of high intellect combined with learning disabilities and/or developmental disabilities. Developing appropriate educational plans tailored to the unique needs of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can be the key to helping them develop and realize their potential.

Very specific concerns are relevant to the transition of these students from high school to adult life. They are likely to have a variety of needs in many different domains: academic, social, behavioral, communication, self-help, functional, vocational, executive functions, problem solving, coping skills, self-awareness, and self-advocacy.

Unfortunately for students with academic strengths, other needs may be masked or overlooked. As a result, the student’s full range of needs may be neglected in the school’s IEP process and in the transition plan that must be developed and in place no later than the age of 16.

Young people with ASD, particularly those who are “on track” academically or on a “diploma track” are often not adequately prepared for the demands of higher education and the workplace. Yet they are exited from special education programs at graduation and left to manage on their own. This can leave students at a significant disadvantage as they move on to higher education or employment. Read more about how parents can control the timing of the end of special education services.

Often school personnel erroneously believe that a student with ASD is smart enough to be able to succeed at college, or that the Office of Disability Services at the college will know how to help students on the spectrum. The reality is that not only are services for adult students discretionary, but the systems of higher education and the workplace are scrambling to be ready to receive and adequately support students on the spectrum. Colleges have developed systems to accommodate individuals with learning disabilities, but have yet to fully come to terms with the type of supports needed to fully include students on the spectrum.

Reports from the trenches indicate many difficulties. Outcomes and statistics for adults with ASD are rather disheartening, as evidenced by multiple recent studies (see below). *

An article in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry indicates that “Although outcome for adults with autism has improved over recent years, many remain highly dependent on others for support.”

And the Autism Society of California Survey Results found: “Families reported that school districts were not providing essential employment skills needed (i.e. completing a job application, interviewing, creating a resume, etc). Generally it was parents who provided the training or no one taught the young adults the much needed skills. Only 15% reported training was provided by the schools and 14% were assisted by Regional Centers.”

This situation is so problematic that it is one of the issues being addressed by the Senate Select Committee on Autism.

To help their child succeed, parents may want to know more about the transition process, the adult service systems, and supports that may be available to those on the spectrum to meet the demands of adult life. To be effective, parents will want to know the answer to these five questions: Do you know…

  • When special education ends/Why a diploma is called an exit document?
  • Why adult services are called “discretionary?”
  • Who makes decisions about the IEP when a student is 18 years or older?
  • What types of accommodations are offered by local colleges for students with ASD?
  • Why community college can be a good choice for students with ASD?

The answers to these questions and more will be answered in Part 2!

*More information:
The Diploma as an Exit Document

Easter Seals’ “Living with Autism” Study

Autism Society of California Survey Results

“Forty-two percent (42%) of the adults with ASD indicated they were presently employed (part-time, full-time, or volunteer) and 29% attended a Day Program. However, 57% of the respondents said they were not happy with their employment situation. (Note: small sample size of adults).

Families reported that school districts were not providing essential employment skills needed (i.e. completing a job application, interviewing, creating a resume, etc). Generally it was parents who provided the training or no one taught the young adults the much needed skills. Only 15% reported training was provided by the schools and 14% were assisted by Regional Centers”

Adult outcome for children with autism (aka Howlin’s study)

Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 45:2 (2004), pp 212–229
by Patricia Howlin, Susan Goode, Jane Hutton, and Michael Rutter

“Results: Although a minority of adults had achieved relatively high levels of independence, most remained very dependent on their families or other support services. Few lived alone, had close friends, or permanent employment. Communication generally was impaired, and reading and spelling abilities were poor. Stereotyped behaviours or interests frequently persisted into adulthood. Ten individuals had developed epilepsy.

Overall, only 12% were rated as having a _Very Good_ outcome; 10% were rated as _Good_ and 19% as_Fair_. The majority was rated as having a _Poor_ (46%) or _Very Poor_ (12%) outcome. Individuals with a childhood performance IQ of at least 70 had a significantly better outcome than those with an IQ below this. However, within the normal IQ range outcome was very variable and, on an individual level, neither verbal nor performance IQ proved to be consistent prognostic indicators.

Conclusions: Although outcome for adults with autism has improved over recent years, many remain highly dependent on others for support. This study provides some information on prognostic indicators, but more finegrained research is needed into the childhood variables that are associated with good or poor outcome.”

Emily Iland is an award-winning author, advocate, researcher, and leader in the autism field. She is the co-author of Autism Spectrum Disorders from A to Z (2004) and translator/publisher of the Spanish version, Los Trastornos del Espectro de Autismo de la A a la Z. Her new book on Reading Comprehension in good decoders with ASD, tentatively titled Drawing a Blank, will be published in Fall, 2010.

Emily is active on the Senate Select Committee on Autism as the co-chairman of the Transition work group of the North LA Task Force.

How you can reach Ms. Iland:

Email: authors@asdatoz.com
Phone: (661) 297-4205
Visit her website