IDEA, the federal law governing special education services, requires IEP teams to help youth with disabilities plan and prepare for a specific kind of transition – the transition from school into adulthood. This type of transition planning must be in effect when your child turns 16, though some states might mandate an earlier age. Through this process, youth with ASD and their families develop a plan for life after high school and start to make decisions about employment, college, independent living, and community involvement. Youth with ASD participate in instruction, activities, and experiences that help them gain the skills they will need to achieve their goals.

The transition from school to adult life is often challenging and complex for military dependents with ASD, particularly if deployments or relocations occur during this period. Here are some tips on making it easier:

  • Inform members of the IEP team and adult service providers about the work experiences your child participated in during high school (e.g., community-based instruction, paid work experiences, volunteering, internships, job shadowing).
  • Ask for contact information and letters of recommendation from individuals who worked with your child in the community and at school. This information can be helpful to develop job applications and future plans.
  • Help your child think about their strengths, skills, interests, and goals for life after high school. Support them in communicating this information to the new IEP team. You can find resources for goal-setting, forms for sharing information, and information on helping your child develop self-determination skills at I’m Determined, a Virginia Department of Education funded project.
  • As mentioned earlier, be sure to make contact with the local office of the state vocational rehabilitation agency (the organization tasked with helping individuals with disabilities find employment) and the state developmental disability council (the organization that supports self-determination and inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities).

Suggested Reading: OAR’s Life Journey Through Autism Series: A Guide for Transition to Adulthood

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