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Posts tagged ‘IEP’

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

Transition Planning: It’s Never Too Early To Start


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


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

Starting Transition Planning


Children will experience many transitions within the school system. For children with disabilities, they may transition from early intervention to preschool to elementary school to middle school to high school to a specially designed transition program to adulthood. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, each transition brings its own challenges and rewards. Did you know that transition planning becomes a systematic process when your child enters high school?

Transition planning usually begins at age 14. Transition services become an integral component of the Individual Education Plan (IEP). Transition planning involves the student, the family, school staff, and outside agency staff. The transition process continues until the student graduates or ages out of program.

Think of transition planning as the pathway to adulthood. What are the desired outcomes? What steps are necessary to achieve the outcomes? In the next several issues of CARD Connector, we will share tips and guidelines for effective transition planning. The following documents will help get you and your family started on the “yellow brick road to adulthood”.

“Start Exploring Now for Tomorrow: A Family Guide for Vocational Planning”


“FAAST General Self-Help Resources to Promote Effective Transition Planning with Students with Disabilities…”


“Transition Planning for Students with Disabilities: A Guide for Families”


Guest Blog: Start off Strong this School Year

By: Erica DuPont, LCSW

If you have a child with an IEP or 504, please do not plan to wait until the first day of school to call a meeting to review their needs, modifications and accommodations.   Consider this scenario; you have been called in for backup as a pizza chef. A customer called in an order for 30 pizzas; however, these are not your ordinary pizzas. These pizzas are to be made without cheese, sauce or flour. In addition, they must be kept at a certain temperature in order for the customers to be able to eat the pizzas. I’ve attempted to make pizza before, it wasn’t round and didn’t taste like New York pizza, but I was able to put something together. However, if I had to figure out how to make a special pizza with these limitations and was provided with these last minute accommodations without the proper considerations for materials, time or manpower, these customers would be left with little more than disappointment and hunger…

Point being, as I’m sure you have concluded, these pizza makers are your child’s teachers. Most teachers are doing the best they can with what they have. Chances are they are also juggling several orders at once, adjusting to new expectations and working within the limitations put on them by their supervisors – trying to provide your child with the best, individualized, warm slice of “pizza” or education they can. It makes sense that provided more time to prepare research, ask questions, and learn more about your child and their needs in general, there is a better chance that your child will benefit from the teachers efforts to best serve your child.

Consider requesting a meeting before school starts, before all the other orders are in and changes are being requested. Request that the entire team of professionals involved in working with your child be present. This includes the ESE teacher, regular education teacher, guidance counselor, school psychologist, social worker, speech and language therapist, and the principal.
It is helpful to have all of your questions, concerns, strategies, and what has worked in the past written down. This will help you stay on track and keep the meeting productive and focused. There is no doubt that no one knows your child better than you. YOU really are your child’s best advocate. However, you are human and you are a parent. Both of these things make you prone to being more emotionally involved in the process. Strongly consider bringing another person to any and all IEP meetings with you. Qualified advocates are available but sometimes just bringing another body to take notes and be supportive is also helpful.

Another tip to consider is to have your child fill out information about themselves. Perhaps a fill in the blank type of letter that helps the teachers understand what works best for them, what they feel they need and what they hope their school year will look like. I remember a student once saying, “ Whenever my teacher says, ‘in other words’ I really start listening because I know she is going to rephrase it in a way I can understand”. Most kids know what type of environment they thrive in and what type of teaching style best meets their needs. Most kids also know what has not worked in the past.

Some other examples of good information to share might be:

-Things that I really enjoy are…

-Things that really bother or annoy me are…

-It would be helpful if…

-These are things that might be triggers for me…

-I think it’s important that you know…

-Here is how you can tell if I am getting frustrated…

-These are some things that help calm me down…

Give this year’s teachers a chance and a head start by preparing them as much as you can on your end.

Best wishes as summer comes to an end and the new school year begins.

ProTherapyPlus, in additional to counseling services also provides many levels of IEP and school advocacy services. IEP trainings and seminars are also scheduled throughout the year.

By: Erica DuPont, LCSW



Nine Weeks down…Three more to go

Nine Weeks Down…Three More to go!

It is hard to believe that the first 9 weeks of school is over!  Now is a great time to review and really check in to see how your child is doing in their classes.  Most kids need the first nine weeks to “warm up” to new routines, teachers, peers, etc…however, if your child seems to be struggling to keep up, is showing a great amount of anxiety, or is exhibiting any other concerning behaviors, I encourage you to look deeper at what school life is truly like for them. 

There are so many services, accommodations and programs available for your child, through the public school system, that you may or may not be aware of.  More can always be done. 

Here are some suggestions if you are concerned about your child’s school performance, social interactions, behavior or overall functioning:

1.  Schedule a meeting with an advocate to review your child’s current IEP or 504 plan.  If your child does not have an IEP or 504 plan but feel they need additional help, an advocate can lead you in the right direction to get the evaluation process started.

2.  If you do have an IEP or 504, call a meeting.  You have the right to request an IEP meeting any time, as many times, as you want throughout the year.  You may also specify who you would like to attend the meeting.

3.  Put your correspondences with the school in writing including minor concerns or questions you may have for teachers.

4.  Consider having an outside, licensed therapist come and observe your child at school.  A new law has recently been passed that will allow for outside, licensed therapists to observe children at school.

5.  Get feedback from your child. Ask them what changes they would make, if they could, to make school easier, better, less stressful?  Ask your child to draw a picture about their day.  Have your child rate their day on a scale from 1-10.  Provide a visual emotion chart for children who are unable to verbalize their feelings when asked about school, a particular class or teacher.

6.  Attend a workshop or support group.  There are several webinars and local meetings/support groups that address these topics and provide a space to share your concerns about questions with other parents and professionals.

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the above information, please feel free to contact Erica DuPont, LCSW Owner of ProTherapyPlus, LLC



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