Transitioning from High School to … Success!

Planning for the transition from high school to the next milestone in a teen’s life (college, work, gap year) is likely to be exciting and anxiety provoking for both parent and child. Successful entry into young adulthood requires direction and intentionality for most individuals with ASD. Parents are often challenged with providing the right amount of guidance and support while encouraging your teen to be self- directed and an advocate for themselves when possible. The following tips are offered to assist parents in anticipating and navigating this important period in their child’s life.

1. Don’t forget to celebrate your teen’s accomplishments that resulted in high school graduation! You’ve both worked really hard for this time.

2. Remember that often young adults with social communication challenges are ready to be fully independent by 18 and are likely to need ongoing support from parents.

3. Parents should base their expectations on teen’s abilities and emotional maturity not on chronological age or on what peers are doing.

4. Start early teaching your child competencies such as being organized, completing work, following directions, accepting feedback and taking responsibility for their homework. These are foundational skills for successful adulthood.

5. Help your teen view mistakes or poor decisions as learning opportunities.

6. Provide experiences during high school in potential post-school settings (part-time employment, job coach, residential camps, exploring recreation). This gives you and the teen important information about challenges and areas of success.

7. Reinforce good hygiene, appropriate dress, healthy nutrition, exercise and sleep habits.

8. Help your teen learn life skills such as cooking, shopping and handling personal finances.

9. Throughout high school have conversations about future plans. Listen to his/her thoughts about careers and life as an adult.

10. Support your teen in pursuing volunteer positions, job shadowing and other opportunities that expose them to real work settings.

11. Continue to work on social and emotional skills as opportunities present within family relationships.

12. Actively participate in transition planning if your child is in public school and has an IEP. If this is not part of the teen’s education program create your own utilizing transition planning resources or consult an educational specialist.

13. If your teen plans to apply to college, start researching schools that may be a good fit and provide needed supports. Start this process early in their junior year.

14. If appropriate for your teen, learn about adult services and eligibility requirements for individuals with a diagnosed disability before they turn 18 (Vocational Rehab, student services for college 504 plans or other support services, SSI).

15. Determine if you and your young adult need legal consultation related to guardianship or power of attorney for healthcare or finance.

Frank Gaskill, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and co-founder of Southeastpsych.com and Shrinktank.com. He works with individuals on the autism spectrum and consults on the development of autism programs and private practice development across the country. Dr.

Gaskill is the co-author of Max Gamer: Aspie Superhero as well as How We Built Our Dream Practice: Innovative Ideas for Building Yours. Dr. Gaskill’s practice website is www.southeastpsych.com.

Note: Dr. G is an email pal of mine, and will have a chapter in our next book! He had some additional material in his chapter that he graciously allowed me to post on our blog. As a result, he is helping my clients from the east coast! Go Dr. G!