Why Should We Care so Much about Transition?
“Young adults with autism have a difficult time following high school for almost any outcome you choose - working, continuing school, living independently, socializing and participating in the community, and staying healthy and safe. To complicate matters, many of these youth begin their journey into adulthood by stepping off a services cliff. Access to needed supports and services drops off dramatically after high school - with too many having no help at all.”
Roux, Anne M., Shattuck, Paul T., Rast, Jessica E., Rava, Julianna A., and Anderson, Kristy A. National Autism Indicators Report: Transition into Young Adulthood.
Philadelphia, PA: Life Course Outcomes Research Program, A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Drexel University, 2015.
The research tells us that while overall the core symptoms of ASD (social interaction, communication skills, and restricted and repetitive behavior) improve with age for the majority of individuals with ASD, individuals typically gain more cognitive skills than adaptive skills through adolescence and adulthood. The explanation for this, however, is not due to cognitive ability alone. The research also tells us that individuals with ASD may be less likely to develop new adaptive skills due to decreased opportunities to acquire new skills and practice those skills (Levy & Perry, 2011).
As self-advocates, family members, and professionals, the key to overcoming these barriers is intentional planning and preparation. Successful transition from adolescence to adulthood for all youth, and especially for our youth with autism spectrum disorders, is possible by being proactive and intentional before, during, and after the transition process.
Levy, A. & Perry, A. (2011). Outcomes in adolescents and adults with autism: A review of the literature. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5, 1271-1282.
What is the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS)?
DRS is a state/federally funded agency to help people with disabilities. DRS assists individuals prepare for employment, obtain employment and retain employment. An adolescent who is 15 ½ years of age or older may be referred to DRS, and eligible individuals can participate in DRS programs as early as 16 years of age. There is no maximum age at which someone can apply for services. You can learn more about Oklahoma’s DRS programs at https://oklahoma.gov/okdrs/students/transition.html
What does DRS provide?
DRS can provide (depending on the need and desire):
During high school
• Vocational evaluations - help identify potential careers matching skills, abilities, and interests
• Career counseling and guidance
• Benefits Planning - working with a professional to determine how much a youth can work without losing Social Security Benefits as well as the benefits of getting off Social Security
• Paid or unpaid work experiences - during the school day, evenings, weekends, summer
• In the school district or in the community
• Up to 10 hours per week
• Last two years of high school
• Job readiness training - collaborating with schools, evening events, school breaks
• Writing resumes
• Applying for jobs
• Interview techniques and mock interviews
• Reality Check exercises about what things cost
• Work Adjustment Training - foundational training for those with more significant disabilities). This includes how to be a good employee, search for jobs, interview, fill out applications, appropriate social skills and interactions with coworkers, learning and practicing work skills, observing/practicing in community businesses.
• iJobs - summer job readiness training and paid work experience
• Autism Spectrum Disorders Program – a program through Goodwill Industries of Tulsa that uses technology and targeted interventions and curriculum to help prepare youth with ASD for employment in the community https://www.goodwilltulsa.org/gwt/Vocational_Services.asp
After high school, DRS can provide: *
• Job search assistance
• Job placement
• Job coaching
• Further education/training
• Assistive Technology
*Note: some services require financial participation by client
Information about the Transition Process
Adulthood Begins in Preschool, Peter F. Gerhardt, Ed.D.
Peter Gerhardt, EdD, has over 35 years of experience supporting adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders. During this online presentation, “Understanding Transition to Adulthood Using Reverse Engineering,” Dr. Gerhardt reviews the wide variety of factors that come into play during the transition into adulthood, and he discusses his personal list of 10 critical life skills.
Autism Through the Lifespan, Autism Society of America
The Autism Society of America has created this section of their website, “Autism Through the Lifespan,” to provide information on what to consider and expect during each phase of a person’s lifespan. Please check out the section on Adulthood to learn more about individualized transition plans, employment, driving, social opportunities and dating.
Support for Self-Advocates, Organization for Autism Research
The Organization for Autism Research has compiled a number of helpful resources that are written specifically for self-advocates. Self-advocacy involves making informed decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions. High school, college, independent living, romantic relationships, the job market, and a variety of other topics are covered.
Transition Toolkit, Autism Speaks
The Autism Speaks Transition Toolkit provides individuals and families with suggestions and options to consider during this time of transition from adolescence into adulthood. Self-advocacy skills, legal issues, housing and employment options are covered in this toolkit.
Meaningful Life and Community of Practice Resources
Supporting Families project, Community of Practice and LifeCourse Tools
Community-Based Skills Assessment (CSA): Developing a Personalized Transition Plan
The Community-Based Skills Assessment (CSA) is an assessment tool for individuals ages 12 and over. It covers eight different areas of functional life: career path and employment; self-determination and advocacy; health and safety; peer relationships, socialization, and social communication; community participation and personal finance; transportation; leisure/recreation; and home living skills.
Essential for Living: A Communication, Behavior and Life Skills Curriculum, Assessment, and Professional Practitioner’s Handbook by Patrick McGreevy, Ph.D., P.A., Troy Fry, and Colleen Cornwall (2012)
This book includes a functional skills curriculum, assessment, and skill-tracking tools for students with moderate-to-severe disabilities. It is especially useful for learners with limited communication repertoires, minimal daily living skills, or severe problem behavior.
JobTIPS – Do 2 Learn
JobTIPS is an online subscription service for students and young adults. There is both a student version and a professional version. JobTIPS covers information about personal interests, finding and applying for a job, keeping a job, and social skills relevant to the workplace. Resources include visual supports, graphic organizers, printable handouts, and video modeling. There is a fee to purchase a license.
Transition Assessment and Goal Generator (TAGG)
TAGG is an on-line transition assessment for secondary-aged youth with disabilities, their families, and professionals. TAGG focuses upon student behaviors that are associated with post high school employment and education. It will create a student profile, list of strengths and needs, and suggested IEP annual transition goals. There is a small fee to purchase a license. For more information, please visit the TAGG website listed above.
SKillstreaming is a research-based prosocial skills training program published by Research Press. It uses a four-step approach to teach prosocial skills – modeling, role-playing, performance feedback, and generalization. There are books targeted for different ages groups, including adolescence.
Jed Baker, PhD; director of the Social Skills Training Project
Dr. Baker is an internationally recognized expert on managing challenging behavior and teaching social skills to children, adolescents, and adults who have social-communication difficulties, including autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Baker has published several books on social skills, anxiety, and coping strategies. He also has a channel on YouTube titled, “Jed Baker’s No More Meltdowns” where he demonstrates how to handle situations such as dealing with unexpected changes, accepting change at school, trying when it’s hard, and dealing with mistakes.
Video Modeling/Prompting by Dr. Ryan Kellems
Dr. Ryan Kellems is an associate professor at Brigham Young University whose interests include video modeling and transition for students with disabilities. He has created a YouTube channel that has a free collection of videos that serve as examples on how to help individuals learn how to complete social, occupational, and daily living tasks.
Autism Support Program at the University of Arkansas
RiverHawks Scholar Program at Northeastern State University
Social Opportunities Program at the University of Tulsa
Soonerworks at the University of Oklahoma
Oklahoma-Specific Transition Resources
Developmental Disabilities Services, Oklahoma Department of Human Services
The mission of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) is to help individuals with developmental disabilities and their families help themselves to lead safer, healthier, more independent and productive lives. DDS serves persons ages 3 and up who have a primary diagnosis of intellectual disabilities. Persons served may also have other developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders in addition to intellectual disabilities.
Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS)
The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) expands opportunities for employment, independent life, and economic self-sufficiency by helping Oklahomans with disabilities bridge the barriers to success in the workplace, school and at home. DRS offers a wide variety of programs to help eligible students prepare for employment and life after high school.
Goodwill Industries of Tulsa
The Transition Work Adjustment Training program at Goodwill Industries of Tulsa is designed for high school students in their junior and senior year to prepare them for entering the workforce upon graduation. This program includes a program specifically for students on the autism spectrum. Topics covered in this program include money management, appropriate work behaviors, basic life skills, safety awareness, and self-advocacy.
Zarrow Center for Learning Enrichment at the University of Oklahoma
The Zarrow Center for Learning Enrichment assists in successful secondary and postsecondary educational, vocational, and personal outcomes for students and adults with disabilities. They do this through research, transition education instruction, and sharing of best educational and support practices. Please visit their website to check out the Timeline of Transition Activities, Oklahoma Transition Council, and many more resources.