Many individuals and parents are faced with searching for options as they or their children age out of the school system. If you are an individual with ASD or a parent/guardian of an individual with ASD, you might consider a post -secondary education option. College programs are now becoming more available to individuals with autism and/or with an intellectual disability. Some offer a full 4 -year college degree program with additional support to enhance success, while others offer a certificate program where students focus on independent living and social skills. If you or your child received special education services through an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), those services will end at graduation and will not follow you or your child to a post-secondary education program. Contacting the post-secondary’s disability advocate program, will assist in learning what supports you or your child can request while completing these next steps in your or your child’s education process.
You can learn more about college programs on our provider directory at https://okautism.org/Information-Resources/Find-a-Provider-Resource/Results/category/education-and-tutoring-1
Autism Speaks also has a toolkit to help in preparing for a post- secondary education program. https://www.autismspeaks.org/tool-kit/postsecondary-educational-opportunities-guide
Finding and maintaining employment is one sign of success in adult life. However, for many individuals with ASD employment can be a challenge. Success in employment looks different for each person, ranging from part to full time working for a company, individual, or for oneself. Regardless of the level of employment or the skill level of the person with ASD, many people require some level of support to experience success in this area.
High School Students
Youth preparing for the transition out of high school should have an intentional transition plan. For students on an Individualized Education Program (IEP), this plan may include employment. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that transition services for students on an IEP be in effect no later than the student’s ninth-grade year or by the age of 16, whichever occurs first. The Oklahoma State Department of Education has additional information about this process available on their website at http://sde.ok.gov/secondary-transition
Individuals with ASD may begin the search for employment at some point during or after high school. Some individuals find employment but also find they need some level of support along the way, particularly if expectations at their job change and require skills that are challenging for the person. Individuals may find the support they need through a friend or family member, through a counselor or therapist, or through the Human Resources Department at their place of employment. Additional resources that may be of help are provided below.
Factors that Contribute to Successful Employment
Regardless of the level of support an individual with ASD may need, it is important to start as early as possible in developing skills that will be needed for successful employment. Some of the key factors that contribute to success in the workplace include:
- Intentional work towards developing skills needed for a job, including independence in daily living skills (eg: personal hygiene), social skills, emotional regulation, and the ability to complete work related tasks as independently as possible;
- Participation in a job skills program in high school, if possible;
- Connecting to disability specific resources as early as possible, preferably in high school;
- Networking with family, friends and other local community resources to identify opportunities for employment and/or volunteering in your area.
Oklahoma Agency Resources
- The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) assists high-school students and adults with disabilities by expanding opportunities for employment, independent life, and economic self-sufficiency. High-school students or adults can access DRS services through an application process. For details about DRS services view their website or call 1.800.845.8476.
- The Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Developmental Disabilities Services provides Community Integrated Employment (CIE) to individuals with intellectual disabilities. You can learn more about this program at their website.
The US Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy
Parent’s Guide to Employment for Adults with ASD from Autism Speaks
Preparing Adults with Autism for Employment Success
Zarrow Institute on Transition and Self-Determination at the University of Oklahoma
There are also several businesses that have programs for employing those with disabilities.
There are also a couple of websites that might give some places to contact to see what they offer locally.
Resources for Employers:
The Employee with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Connecting with people who share similar life experiences is important for all of us. Finding opportunities to connect socially with others can be a challenge. Some social groups that are available include others with similar disabilities. These can be a stepping stone to find other opportunities in your community. You can find strategies on how to expand your child’s social circles or ideas as an individual with ASD to start exploring new social connections in our “Building Your Village” section https://okautism.org/Information-Resources/LifeSpan-Supports/Early-Childhood#955505661-building-your-village
There are some changes to be considered when a person with a disability, including autism, reaches the age of majority. In Oklahoma, and most other states, the age of majority is 18 years old. At that time, a person is legally considered to be an adult and parents no longer have the legal rights, such as accessing confidential health records and school records, that they were entitled to throughout their child’s younger years. Parents are no longer their child’s legal guardian.
Not all people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder need the protection of Guardianship. Obtaining Guardianship for a person should be carefully investigated. A person’s ability to care for themself, make decisions that are in their own best interest, and managing their financial assets are some of the things that should be considered. Additionally, the person’s personal interests, needs, strengths, and weaknesses are important in making plans for their future.
Becoming the guardian of a person is a legal procedure that requires the appearance before a Judge. Guardianship does not require hiring an attorney. There are different types of Guardianship and they can differ from state to state. While the services of an attorney are not absolutely necessary, it can be beneficial to consult with an attorney before filing legal papers and heading to court.
- LegalAidOK provides resources to families seeking guardianship in Oklahoma
- Autism Speaks provides resources to families making decisions regarding long-term planning, including guardianship
A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder does not automatically give a parent/guardian legal rights after the individual turns 18?
Once an individual reaches the age of 18 years, they are considered a legal adult. Parents/Guardians who have been providing financial and emotional support for their loved one with ASD must begin to explore options in order to protect their loved one in medical, financial, and legal matters. In the case of a person with ASD, their capacity to receive, evaluate and communicate information about a decision, along with the importance of the decision, should influence whether they require guardianship or conservatorship.
You can learn about the difference between guardianship and conservatorship https://www.bundrenlaw.com/blog/2018/december/the-difference-between-guardianship-and-conserva/#:~:text=This%20is%20an%20important%20distinction,person%2C%20only%20a%20person's%20property.
An IEP ( Individualized Education Plan) does not follow an individual to college?
Postsecondary institutions have significantly different responsibilities from those of school districts. They also assume that the student and not the parent will be advocating for their unique needs. Colleges should have a disability support office that you can contact to advocate for yourself or as a parent, that you can support your child in contacting. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has information and guidance for students with disabilities and their parents/guardians in preparing for postsecondary education and knowing what their rights are.
Individuals with autism and/or behavioral challenges can be arrested and incarcerated?
Individuals with ASDs are seven more times likely to encounter the criminal justice system than those without the disorders (Debbaudt, 2004). Although each offender diagnosed with an ASDs is different and should be processed and assessed individually by the court, the majority of individuals with hfASDs (high functioning ASD) who exhibit criminal behaviour are thought to do so as a presentation of or in association with the symptoms of their disorders, specifically related to poor impulse and motor control, narrow fixation on specific interests, theory of mind deficits, and a lack of understanding of social cues, personal space, and the effects of one’s behaviour on others (Murrie et al., 2002; Barry-Walsh and Mullen, 2004; Howlin, 2004; Haskins and Silva, 2006; Attwood, 2006; Kristiansson and Sorman, 2008; Browning and Caulfield, 2011).
A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is not a defense for committing a crime, but is a relevant factor in that defense?
If a person involved in a crime is on the autism spectrum, the way in which the people involved in the judicial system communicate with them must be altered accordingly. Ensuring that the person understands the judicial system, the situation at hand and the court process is essential. Enlisting an autism expert to help guide the process is also helpful to both those in the judicial system and the person involved.
If an attorney, judge, or victims rights advocate is assigned a case involving someone on the autism spectrum, it is critical that these professionals have basic knowledge about autism spectrum disorder. Understanding their unique strengths, challenges, and the most effective ways to communicate with them will help ensure those on the spectrum get fair and appropriate treatment while involved in the court system. (Autism Speaks- Doyle, B.T. (2009) And Justice for All: Unless You Have Autism - What the Legal System Needs to Know About People With Autism Spectrum Disorders.)