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Autism & the Transition to Adulthood


Autism & the Transition to Adulthood

Success Beyond the Classroom
Authors: Paul Wehman Ph.D., Marcia Datlow Smith Ph.D., Carol M. Schall Ph.D.   Chapter Authors: Lori W. Briel, Elizabeth Evans Getzel Ph.D., Dawn R. Hendricks Ph.D., Jennifer McFarland-Whisman Ph.D., BCBA, Lucy Axton Miller, W. Grant Revell Jr., Pamela Sherron Targett

ISBN: 978-1-55766-958-2
Pages: 304
Copyright: 2009
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Size:  7.0 x 10.0
Stock Number:  69582
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Autism diagnoses in young children increased dramatically in the 1990s—and now those children are young adults on the verge of a challenging transition to the real world. Every school and program will be ready to help with this groundbreaking practical guide, straight from the author of the acclaimed bestseller Life Beyond the Classroom and two community-based autism experts.

Professionals who work with young adults will get hard-to-find information on how specific social, behavioral, and cognitive characteristics of people with autism affect the transition to adulthood, exploring potential challenges and traits that can be powerful assets. Then they'll get a complete guide that walks them through every aspect of transition planning, including planning for employment and postsecondary education:

  • conducting skillful assessment to determine a young person's individual career goals, job-related strengths, and independent living skills
  • using well-designed instructional supports, routines, and spaces in inclusive classrooms
  • implementing positive behavior support to help young adults with autism succeed in school and at work
  • providing community-based instruction at naturally occurring times, so it's easier for students to learn and generalize new skills
  • showing students and their families how to make the most of SSA disability benefits
  • assisting students with college preparation, from choosing a college to managing academic and social demands
  • using supported and/or customized employment strategies to help young people establish satisfying careers that play to their strengths
  • helping young people develop critical life skills they'll use across settings
  • unlocking the benefits of community services and programs, such as vocational rehabilitation programs and Centers for Independent Living

Compelling stories throughout the book illustrate how successful transition planning improved the lives of three diverse teenagers, and the practical forms, checklists, and suggested resources and links help readers put the proven strategies into action. A must for every member of the transition team—including general and special educators, transition specialists, employment specialists, and counselors—this is the ultimate resource for supporting the goals, dreams, and future success of young adults with autism.

Help young people with autism develop critical life skills in key areas:

  • social skills
  • health and safety
  • work habits
  • money management
  • mobility
  • recreation and leisure
  • personal appearance
  • and more!
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Reviews

Review: Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
"Answers the vital call to plan for and maintain effective and appropriate supports and services beyond secondary school placements and into adulthood."
Review: VCU-RRTC e-newsletter
"Professionals who work with young adults will get hard-to-find information on how specific special, behavioral, and cognitive characteristics of people with autism affect the transition to adulthood, exploring potential challenges and traits that can be powerful assets."
Review: Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
"Effectively detail[s] the challenging journey from adolescence into adulthood for individuals with autism…All those who read the text should find the content informative, practical, and helpful when structuring transition planning for adolescents and adults with autism."
Review by: Sherrilyn K. Fisher, DCDT President
"The most practical book I have read on developing measurable transition goals and real-life community based experiences for students and young adults with autism."
Review by: Debra Hart, Director, Education & Transition, Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts, Boston
"Finally! There is such a demand in the field for a text like this. This book is a very thorough overview and addresses a significant need for information on making the transition to all aspects of adult life a success for young people with autism."
Review by: Chantal Sicile-Kira, author, Adolescence on the Autism Spectrum
"Clear, concise, and comprehensive . . . essential reading for anyone involved with transition planning and preparing young people with autism for the real world."
Review by: Cary Griffin, Senior Partner, Griffin-Hammis Associates; co-author, Making Self-Employment Work for People with Disabilities and The Job Developer's Handbook
"Finally, a practical book that explores the realities of transition to life after public school for individuals with autism. For all students, adulthood comes quickly; now everyone can be prepared for productive citizenship."
Review by: Peter F. Gerhardt, President and Chair, Scientific Council, Organization for Autism Research
"[The authors] have merged the relevant research with their clinical insight and extensive hands-on experience to produce a volume that should be considered essential reading for both parents and professionals alike. Highly recommended!"
Review by: Shelley Russin, Educational Consultant Professional Development Staff, Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18, Kingston, PA
"An excellent resource . . . includes plenty of practical advice, which can be used by the IEP team for successful planning. I plan on using it and recommending it frequently!"
Review by: Bradford Hulcher, parent of an 18-year-old with ASD; Information and Referral Specialist, Autism Society of America, Central VA Chapter
"An invaluable tool for parents of middle and high school students with ASD in planning for supports to maximize their child's potential and to ensure a positive future."
Review by: Judith Howlett, Transition Specialist, Richmond Public Schools, Virginia
"A breath of fresh air . . . could conceivably become the 'bible' of information for transitioning students with autism. It will be on my bookshelf for many years to come."

About the Authors
About the Contributors
Preface
Acknowledgments

1: Understanding the Transition from School to Adulthood for Students with Autism
Carol Schall & Paul Wehman

2. Positive Behavior Support
Marcia Datlow Smith

3. Educational and Transition Planning
Carol Schall

4. Meeting Transition Goals Through Inclusion
Carol Schall & Jennifer McFarland-Whisman

5. Teaching Youth for Success: From Classroom to Community
Dawn R. Hendricks, Marcia Datlow Smith, & Paul Wehman

6. Navigating the World of Adult Services and Benefits Planning
Grant Revell & Lucy Axton Miller

7. Integrated Employment
Pamela Sherron Targett & Paul Wehman

8. Post Secondary Options for Students with Autism
Lori W. Briel & Elizabeth Evans Getze

9. Critical Life Skills
Marcia Datlow Smith & Pamela Sherron Targett

10. Living in the Community
Pamela Sherron Targett & Marcia Datlow Smith

Afterword
Paul Wehman, Marcia Datlow Smith, & Carol Schall

References

Resource Guide
Carol Schall
National Organizations
State Resources

Index

Excerpted from Autism and the Transition to Adulthood: Success Beyond the Classroom
By Paul Wehman, Ph.D., Marcia Datlow Smith, Ph.D., & Carol Schall, Ph.D.
©2009. Brookes Publishing. All rights reserved.

CHARACTERISTICS OF RECOMMENDED TRANSITION PRACTICES

Adolescents with autism require specialized support and planning throughout their transition from school to adult life. Thoughtful transition planning is needed whether the student is continuing on to college or is seeking employment with supports through a community provider or vocational rehabilitation agency. Consider the importance of having a framework or guidelines to follow in transition planning for each student. Each student is different, yet there must be consistency to approaching the design of a transition plan. It will be important for the transition team to use recommended practices when supporting the student with autism through this transition. The five guidelines or practices we see in transition planning for students with autism are

  1. Implementing positive behavior supports to address behavior challenges
  2. Matching the IEP to a vision for the future
  3. Capitalizing on inclusive experiences
  4. Providing a variety of community-based job and life experiences
  5. Coordinating a smooth transition to new resources and service providers in the community

Each of these important practices and their relevance to individuals with autism are described briefly here and in more depth in other chapters.

Implementing Positive Behavior Supports to Address Behavior Challenges

It is clear that many individuals with autism display challenging behaviors. In addition, the characteristics of autism lead to a need for increased communication and social skills and decreased problematic or repetitive behaviors. Thus, it is important for parents, teachers, and other direct service providers to understand the purpose of students’ behavior and develop positive behavior support plans for students. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the skills teachers need in order to analyze the purposes of students’ challenging behavior and implement a plan to decrease those behaviors while increasing adaptive behavior.

Matching the Individualized Education Program to a Vision for the Future

Middle and high school mark important changes in the school curriculum for all students. Perhaps one of the most significant is the increased choice that young people have when they enter middle school. Instead of being provided with the same curriculum as everyone else in their class and year, middle school students are offered choices of classes and electives. This provision of choice in the curriculum demonstrates the acknowledgment that youth are beginning to explore their own interests and abilities and will eventually choose a course of study that leads them to their own personal career path. Some youth will go on to college and study science, human services, art, or music. Some youth will go to work in mechanics, in construction, or in administration. Curriculum choice reflects the importance of looking forward, not back. By the end of elementary school, all students leave behind the basics and, ready or not, move on to a course of study that matches their interests.

It is important that this same change occur for middle and high school students with autism. Rather than focus on the missing developmental skills a person with autism may have, his or her curriculum should look forward to the potential career path the individual will follow. This critical shift should be reflected in the IEP process. Adolescence is the time to identify skills that will result in meeting the vision that the person and his or her family have for adulthood. Even for individuals who will go on to college, it is critical to begin to shape the curriculum based on plans for the individual’s adult life.

In short, the task of education from middle school forward is one of getting a life. When considering education from that point of view, it becomes clear that skill selection is a key process. The issue of getting a life also raises the question of what kind of life a person with autism should seek. The answer to that question is the life of the individual’s vision and dreams. Chapter 3 will provide a roadmap for teachers seeking to understand this process and encourage the development of IEPs that match the student’s strengths, interests, and vision for the future. In Chapter 3, you will read about the importance of assessment, career development, person-centered planning, and IEP development. All of these processes require that adolescents with autism be involved and, as much as possible, speak for themselves. When an individual cannot communicate his or her feelings or wishes about these matters, the team must consider how the student has expressed preferences through the varied experiences he or she has had in school. The result is an IEP that is focused on the student and has included the student in its development.

Capitalizing on Inclusive Experiences

The best place to teach many students with disabilities, including autism, is with their peers who do not have disabilities. Rather than a philosophy or movement, inclusion should be viewed as a tool that can address both academic and social skill development while meeting students’ individual needs. Specifically, inclusive experiences present students with autism the opportunity to observe, learn, and practice social skills with peers who do not have disabilities.

When well supported and implemented, inclusion also affords individuals with autism the opportunity to gain access to the general education curriculum under the guidance of both special and general educators who are highly qualified. Thus, inclusion serves a very important role in helping adolescents with autism meet state standards while practicing social skills in natural environments. Chapter 4 describes how to properly plan and implement supports for successful inclusion to address the needs of students with autism in meeting state standards and accomplishing social skill practice in natural environments.

Providing a Variety of Community-Based Job and Life Experiences

One key to success in employment is having previous work experience. Working is a unique experience in that the types of relationships, the way tasks are completed, and the way co-workers interact are all governed by stated and unstated rules. Rules for customer care and reporting to a boss are unique to and only observed in work environments. Thus, they are best learned at work. Likewise, there are stated and unstated rules that govern other public environments, such as restaurants and grocery stores. The best place to learn the rules of these environments is in each environment itself. Because of the difficulty that many individuals with autism experience when attempting to generalize skills from one setting to another, it is important to teach them in the environment in which they will use the skills—in real settings outside the classroom, such as internships, work-study situations, part- or full-time paid work, or even volunteering. Chapter 5 presents strategies that will enable teachers to teach these skills, while Chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10 present strategies on developing and providing instruction in work-, community-, and home-based settings.

Coordinating a Smooth Transition to New Resources and Service Providers in the Community

An important aspect of transition planning is to connect the person with autism and his or her support system to all of the resources and service providers available to adults with disabilities. With a thorough understanding of families’ needs and pertinent adult services, IEP and transition team members will be better suited to address students’ and families’ needs. This is the major way family support occurs for transition-age youth with autism. By connecting youth and their families with resources and service providers while students are still in high school, the teacher can continue to support students’ transition in the classroom by implementing changes based on the recommendations of service providers and obtaining new services through the transition referral process. As the person with autism makes the transition from high school to the community, workplace, or college, more and more adult service providers should participate in the development and implementation of the plan. The teacher’s role during this aspect of transition is to provide all of the necessary introductions across the team and to facilitate the development of a plan that allows the person with autism and the entire team to interact together successfully. Chapter 6 and the Resource Guide at the end of the book address teachers’ and parents’ need for information about those important services.

PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER

As noted previously, adolescence is a difficult time full of challenges. Students without disabilities struggle to find their way to their future. Students with autism face additional challenges due to their disabilities. The critical factor in the success of transition for adolescents with autism is determined by the people who comprise their team. In order to achieve success beyond the classroom, the team must listen well to the student and his or her parents regarding their vision for the future and plan carefully to assist the student in achieving that vision.

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