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Archive for the ‘Transition’ Category

Autism & Back to School

It’s that time of year once again, every kid’s favorite: back to school! We hope everyone’s successfully readjusted to their school schedule and aren’t still stuck in summer mode. It can be a stressful time for parents as well, not knowing how their kids are going to be treated by the other students, their teacher, and the administration. Will they make friends? Will they have to sit alone in the cafeteria? Is getting them to do homework going to be a daily stress? My parents can attest to all those feelings, and I know personally just how scary the whole experience can be; the first day of school was my worst nightmare when I was younger. But it really doesn’t need to be. School can be a wonderful and fulfilling part of your life, a time you’ll look back on with nostalgia when the realities of adult life hit you.

I’d like to outline some general advice I have for the back to school period that can be beneficial for both the student and parents. This is assuming you’ll be in a general education classroom which, as I’ve previously discussed, is becoming more common for kids on the spectrum. First is to keep a constant line of communication between student, parent, and teacher. As someone who’s going into the teaching profession, I can’t understate the importance of this. Teachers have to balance the needs of an entire classroom, and it can be difficult to properly identify one student’s troubles if they don’t know what’s going on in that student’s mind. Not only is a good relationship with the teacher positive academically, but I’ve seen firsthand teachers who are willing to help integrate their special needs students with the rest of the class. New friendships are formed that never would have been otherwise.

Another important thing, and it’s one that in hindsight I’m glad my family forced on me, is to get involved. Boy/Girl Scouts, sports, clubs, any extracurricular activities. When I was much younger I did these things (reluctantly at first), and ended up making many of my friends through them. It also allowed my mom to form relationships with the other parents so they could set up play dates for all of us. Even for older students, it’s never a bad idea to stay active, learn some valuable life skills, and have fun instead of wasting away doing nothing like many high schoolers are prone to do. I know that for many with ASD, putting yourself out there in social situations can be a daunting task, but facing your fears and anxieties is the only way to overcome them. Building a rapport with your teacher and getting involved with the school are what I consider to be the most important methods of feeling comfortable in school from the very beginning of the year.

 

G. Sosso

Preparing for College with Autism

Speaking from personal experience, I know that going off to college as a young adult on the autism spectrum can be an overwhelming prospect, one that many will not be able to overcome. The thought of leaving home for college is scary for every high school graduate; I mean, we’re still kids at that point. But considering the unique challenges that face so many on the autism spectrum, it can be exponentially more difficult. My first attempt at university immediately following high school was, to be completely honest, a train wreck. However, I believe that every failure you make it through brings you one step closer to success, and I learned and grew a lot from that time. Now almost three years later and with much more experience and knowledge under my belt, I have a far better understanding of what it takes to be successful for those with autism looking to make it in college. I would like to share these thoughts with you all, in hopes that it will give you a better idea of how to overcome certain obstacles.

The main issue that I and so many others face is the sudden leap into independent living. No longer will mom and dad be there to bail you out of your problems, or sit you down and force you to do your homework. It’s harsh, but that’s just the way the world works. Preparation BEFORE going to college is absolutely essential. Now, assuming you were diagnosed with a disability before the age of 16, you should have had an Individual Education Program (IEP) set up throughout high school. The IEP is all a part of “transition planning,” which, according to this article, is training or experience, “from hygiene to banking to job training, driver’s education, sex education, college admissions and more,” all things which are never really covered in school, but are immensely important life skills.

But it doesn’t stop there; in fact, the journey is just beginning. Once you get to school, there are plenty of resources available to you, and it’s essential that you utilize them as much as possible. At USF, there’s the Students with Disabilities Services and just about every university has something similar. These people want to help you, but it’s your responsibility to go to them, they will not come to you. If you take away any one thing from this, it’s that you need to become an effective self-advocate. Is there pressure on you to take on more of a workload than you’re comfortable with? Make sure to let the advisor know. You only have to take a few classes at a time, there’s no rush to finish college as soon as possible.

On the Autism Speaks website, there’s a large and comprehensive list of resources for post-secondary education that I suggest you take a look at. Most importantly, remember to relax and pace yourself, stress can ruin your life in college if you let it!

  • G. Sosso

Transitioning into the Working World

Out of all the issues we try to address here at CARD, there is perhaps none more important than how can we help kids on the spectrum, who just finished, or are finishing, high school successfully transition into the adult (working) world? It can seem like a monumental task at times, even downright impossible, but it’s not! I was in the exact same position when I graduated from Lakewood Ranch High School back in 2013, and my life sort of stalled until I found CARD, and of course the Learning Academy. They helped me a lot, and hopefully I can do the same thing for anyone reading this.

According to the Autism Society via the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of “June 2014, only 19.3 percent of people with disabilities in the U.S. were participating in the labor force – working or seeking work. Of those, 12.9 percent were unemployed; meaning only 16.8 percent of the population with disabilities was employed (By contrast, 69.3 percent of people without disabilities were in the labor force, and 65 percent of the population without disabilities was employed).” The difference between the 2 is enormous, and clearly speaks to some sort of correlation; such a gap cannot be mere coincidence. Now, to be fair, part of the blame does lie on those with the disabilities. Less than 20% of people on the spectrum were looking for work, and that is a huge part of the problem.

Many employers hear the negative stereotypes associated with workers with mental disabilities, and don’t want to take the risk of hiring them. Things like laziness, the inability to follow orders, taking longer to accomplish tasks, lack of social skills, etc. are just some of the reasons companies aren’t hiring from this demographic. And it cannot be denied that, for many young, and even full-grown adults, these things are an issue that plagues them. But, just like any other problem, it can be fixed if both the boss and employee are willing to work together and be understanding. Perhaps if more companies realized this, they could see some of the positive attributes people on the spectrum can bring; i.e. resourcefulness, creativity, unique perspectives and the ability to point out the little details others might miss.

So now we know a few of the issues, but how can we go about fixing them; i.e. making the transition? I think this article sums it up quite well, “For young adults who go directly into the employment world, it will also be critical for them to focus on their strengths and what brings them the greatest joy. They will want to explore different areas of the job market. Different work environments may help different individuals to excel. There are many opportunities for supported employment, where the employer offers supports to a worker with different challenges. Other individuals will require less support and may do better independently.” Basically, you need to find your passion, and there are many organizations that can help you out with that, including CARD!

Source: http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/facts-and-statistics/.

 

G. Sosso

Transition Planning

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This is the fifth (and final) in a series of articles about transition planning. This article identifies some of the unwritten elements for a successful transition. Is your child learning and practicing these skills across grade levels and into adulthood? Prepare, strategize, implement, revise, evaluate, and enjoy your child’s journey on the yellow brick road to adulthood. (And remember to contact CARD if you are seeking additional guidance along the way.)

o Effectively communicate expressively and receptively. Communication is critical to learning and doing.
o Accurately interpret body language. Much of communication is non-verbal and can be easily misconstrued.
o Productively problem-solve. Analyze personal thoughts and actions and learn from mistakes.
o Prioritize, organize, sequence, and complete tasks. Every task and activity requires planning and follow-through.
o Maintain a high level self-esteem. A positive attitude is a foundational element for success.
o Respect others. Accept and celebrate diversity. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and brings something of value to the table. Learn to cooperate and collaborate within a team context.
o Set personal goals and self-monitor your progress. Gradually increase your independence over time.

Reward yourself. (You did it!!)

Transition Planning

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This is the fourth in a series of articles about transition planning. This article focuses on the pending changes in the high school graduation requirements for students with disabilities. The proposed changes are expected to be finalized at the November 18th meeting of the State Board of Education.

If your child entered 9th grade prior to the 2014-2015 school year, he/she will continue on the same track towards earning a standard or special diploma. If your child entered 9th grade in the 2014-2015 school year, the pending changes are relevant to you. The first thing to know is that a course-of-study working towards a diploma must be chosen in the 9th grade. If your child is on an IEP, the course-of-study must be documented on the TIEP (transition individual education plan).

The proposed new rule (6A-1.09963 Florida Administrative Code) outlines new requirements that students with disabilities (including those with cognitive disability who take the alternate assessment) may follow to earn a standard diploma. An explanation of the requirements is too complex for this short article. You will find the proposed new rule at https://app1.fldoe.org/rules/default.aspx. You still have the opportunity to provide comments regarding the proposed new rule to the Department of Education prior to the November 18th meeting of the State Board of Education.

The decision to accept or defer the standard high school diploma must be made during the school year in which your child is expected to meet all the requirements for the standard diploma, and the decision is to be noted on the IEP. The IEP team must review the benefits of deferring the standard diploma to enable continuation of education and related services (through age 21), and must document the rationale in writing.

As defined in the new high school graduation requirements, if your child does not achieve the required grade point average, or does not achieve proficiency on required assessments, he/she will receive a “certificate of completion” rather than the standard diploma. The special diploma option has been eliminated.

The person most knowledgeable about the new high school graduation requirements for students with disabilities is the Guidance Counselor. Be sure to invite him/her to your child’s 9th grade IEP meeting.

Transition Planning: It’s Never Too Early To Start

transition

This is the third in a series of articles about transition planning. This article focuses on students in middle school. It is never too early to plan for transition to adult life. Preparing a young person for transition to adulthood is a gradual process stretching over several years. You may find the “transition roadmap” for middle school helpful in starting the journey: http://flfcic.fmhi.usf.edu/docs/FCIC_Employment_Roadmap.pdf

Involve your child in activities that foster self-respect and self-esteem, and enable gradually increasing independence. This may include participating in extracurricular activities that build on your child’s strengths and interests, such as playing an instrument in the band, auditioning for a play, or getting involved in 4-H. Assign specific tasks at home, and require that the tasks are done thoroughly and on time. Have your child join you in community activities that help others, such as cutting coupons for an elderly neighbor, cheering on friends competing in a marathon, or reading to a young child.

Take your child into the community, and point out occupations and the tasks and responsibilities of the persons doing those jobs. Encourage your child to talk about the occupation he/she might like to do as an adult. Highlight your child’s strengths and gifts. Expose your child to experts with similar strengths and gifts, such as attending a symphony concert for a budding musician.

In middle school, your child should become more involved in developing the goals on his/her IEP, and in self-assessing progress over time. Creating personal ownership of the IEP is a foundational base in developing your child’s self-determination skills. By the time your child is a 9th grader, he/she should be attending his/her IEP meeting, and possibly even chairing the meeting by grade 11 or 12. Did you know that a diploma option must be chosen in 9th grade (as per the new state statute)? Your child should be an active participant in making this important decision. More about that in the next article about transition…..

Transition Planning Series #2

transition

This is the second in a series of articles about transition planning at the secondary level for your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
On or before your child’s 16th birthday, transition services becomes an integral component of the Individual Educational Plan (IEP), better known as the Transition Individual Educational Plan (TIEP) at high school.
The TIEP must include a statement of the needed transition services, including (if appropriate) a statement of the school’s and each participating adult agency’s responsibilities or linkages before the student leaves school. “Transition services” means a coordinated set of activities for the student which are outcome-based to promote movement from school to post-school activities. Post-school activities may include post-secondary education, vocational training, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, and/or adult services focused on independent living and community participation.
The coordinated set of activities are based on the student’s needs, and take into account the student’s preferences and interests.The activities shall include the areas of instruction, community experiences, the development of employment, and other post-school adult living objectives; and, if appropriate, daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.
The TIEP is a dynamic document that may be revised at the IEP annual review, as the student moves closer and closer to graduation. It is important that you and your child are actively involved in developing and implementing the transition plan. The TIEP is the pathway to your child’s future.

– Sue Thomas, CARD Consultant – Adult Services

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