Moving on and finding a new path after high school can be stress filled for both parents of special needs children and the students themselves. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates a public education for all eligible children ages 3 through 21 (in most states), and makes the schools responsible for providing the supports and services that will allow this to happen. So from the toddler years through young adulthood, schools legally provide for students. Beyond this time the ADA and other legal provisions can help students as they grow into adulthood. It is imperative, therefore, that students and their families understand the transition process. What are some things to consider with the transition process?
- HighSchool Graduation –There are several forms of high school diplomas including: a GED (General Education Development (GED) Diplomas), IEP diplomas, and a high school diploma. It is important to talk to your child’s school about the meaning of each diploma and which is available to your child.
- Career Development– Programs, like the one at Milestones, offer employment skills including working with others, money, sales, cashiers, and other aspects of working in an office or store environment.
- Life Skills and Independent Living – Depending upon your child’s skills, he/she may want to master certain life skills, and self-care skills to become more independent both at work and at home. Check out Milestones Life Skills Checklist on our website.
- College Preparation – Many students choose to continue their studies at colleges or universities in the area or community colleges where they have the opportunity to have Milestones support from our transition team. We offer internships and training with our staff and partnerships with employers in our area. Read more about this on our website.
In our last few blogs we have been discussing transitioning from the tween and teen years into adulthood. Whether a child (or soon-to-be-adult) has the skills to enter college, live independently, maintain a job or do typical self care routines is really dependent on the life skills they have practiced and learned over the years, whether in school, at home or through therapies. Most schools and therapists believe in using the skills in every area and having parents reinforce these skills in the same manner at home. Here is a quick check list of transitioning life skills to practice with your teen who is transitioning.
Life skills are not just checked off on a master list but rather repeated over and over again until it becomes an integral part of the child’s life. Some of the most important life skill include: self care, safety, self-esteem, self-advocacy, self regulation and independent living skills. Each task should be broken down into smaller tasks and repeated, repeated and repeated.
Here, at Advancing Milestones, we have our own series of checklists for transitioning teens. Find ours on our website, here. Our life skills are broken down into the following categories:
- Executive Functioning
- Technology and Consumerism
- Home, Food, Hygiene Related, Transportation and Leisure
- Self-Advocacy, Disability Related
- Medical Health, Mental Health and Sexuality
- Jobs and College
In addition to our lists, here are a few other resources that may be helpful.
Here is a detailed list from the Children’s Administration Division of Children and Family Services – Life Skills Inventory and Independent Living Skills Assessment Tool.
Here is an article with information on College programs and skills needed for Autistic children from the Interactive Autism Network.
The Autism Helper uses visual clues and step-by-step guides to help children learn skills. Read more.
Coming of age can be a bittersweet and anxiety-ridden time for both parents and children. Graduating from high school, finding a job, going to college, paying bills, and living independently are just a few of the major milestones. The list could go on and on. The road to adulthood is probably something parents of children on the spectrum have fretted over since the toddler years, and something children have anticipated for years. Careful planning for this transition should be an important part of the high school years. Let’s take a closer look at transition planning and some resources that will help you.
According the Interactive Autism Network, an unprecedented number of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will leave high school and flood the U.S. adult disability system in the next couple of years. An estimated 50,000 Americans with ASD will turn 18 each year, as a part of “a surge of children” diagnosed in the 1990s. Planning ahead can mean the difference between gaining the right assistance for your adult-child and having to fight to gain access being offered to a growing number of people. Need help with transition planning? There are many resources and toolkits to help you navigate the legal and, sometimes, bureaucratic transition years.
- Talk to your child’s team. Include behaviorists, occupational and physical therapists as well as classroom teachers. This group can help you and your child begin the transitioning process very early in the high school years regardless of whether your child is at a specialty school like Milestones or at a public school.
- Plan for the years after your child turns 21. Students with a disability of any kind are protected by the disabilities act until they turn 21. From there, things get a bit tricky. While your adult-child may be eligible for adult services such as housing assistance, day programs, and career counseling and training, gaining access may be dependent upon funding both locally and nationally. Research what the guidelines are for your area.
- Research Transitioning Planning toolkits and resources with the help of your child’s team. Autism Speaks has a “Transition Tool Kit” that may help. The Arc- Autism Now also has an excellent list of resources and checklists that can help get you started. The Interactive Autism Network has several toolkits to help plan for job training, college or independent living depending upon your child’s trajectory.
Leaving high school and navigating through the social, emotional and educational maze known as college is complicated for everyone. But if you’re a student on the autism spectrum who is about to enter higher education for the first time, it might be a little bit more complicated for you. Many autistic teens out there have the intellect to make higher education a breeze, but are lacking in some of the social, time management and organizational skills they’ll need to make the grades they deserve. Luckily, there is a wide range of colleges out there stepping up to offer support and help for students with autism spectrum conditions.
Regardless of where a student falls on the spectrum, there are college programs designed for him/her. Whether the student/parents have concerns about navigating college social life, getting appropriate accommodations, getting to places on time or dating and relationships, there are resources that can guide you and your young adult along the way. Many post-secondary institutions around the country offer training and certification programs as well as individualized and group support services. Here are a few to look into further depending upon the needs of your child.
- Mercyhurst University has a unique program called Autism/Asperger’s Initiative (AIM). This pioneering program is designed to help students overcome the kind of challenges that most students with autism face. AIM concentrates on honing particular skill areas. such as social skills or executive functioning skills.
- Drexel University Autism Support Program: Drexel has one of the most comprehensive autism support programs out there for college students today, aiming to create a more diverse experience that includes those with not only cultural differences, but neurological ones as well. Through DASP, students can find peer mentor training, support from advisors, as well classes and programs to help them better adapt to life in college. Additionally, students can work to become advocates for the condition on campus and eventually pay their help forward by supporting successors.
- Boston University Supported Education Services: Free to anyone attending BU, this program offers individualized assistance with building academic skills and supporting students with autism disorders during their time in college. It can be a great way for them to get help in adapting to college life and finding the motivation to seek out social interactions. Additionally, BU is a great place to follow the latest research being done on autism today, and students in the life sciences may even be able to take part in making discoveries that could change how the medical field sees the spectrum.
- University of Connecticut SEAD Program: The goal of this program is to help students and their families make the transition to college a smooth one, assisting the former in learning more about their disability and how to function as an independent adult. It is open to any student accepted to the university with an autism spectrum disorder and is available at varying levels of intensity. Participants receive access to support from staff, weekly meetings and a range of materials that can make the college experience a whole lot less intimidating.
College is such an exciting time. Adjusting to a roommate, a new social life, independence, and of course, the ever popular dining hall food are just a few of the types of transitions late teens are expected to deal with upon entering college. All of these social changes are done all while balancing a full college schedule. Whew!
For many students these changes and transitions are completely doable and happen with ease. However, students who have a disability- whether it is attention, reading or otherwise are grappling with a whole other set of issues. Academic rigor, organization and focus are issues that were once the responsibility of the child’s guidance counselor, special education teacher or even mom and dad. What then are the options on busy and sometimes crowded campuses for learning disabled students? Let’s look at the statistics facing learning disabled students and some tips on how to beat those odds.
Unfortunately, the statistics are a bit overwhelming when it comes to learning disabled students and higher education. According to the National Center for Special Education Research just 34 percent of learning disabled students complete a four-year degree within eight years of finishing high school, compared to 56 percent of all students nationally. What are some suggestions from the special education experts on how to beat these odds?
- Learn to Advocate for Oneself– One of the hardest and best skills a student can learn in high school is how to advocate for their own education. Teach and practice with your child how to ask for help and understand the needs that he/she will have in the classroom and at home studying. Being able to tell a professor what the problem is will go a long way in getting the right help whether it s preferred seating or audio versions of the text books.
- Invest in Software and Tools – It is amazing the specialized tools available today from font type for dyslexia to time management apps. Find out what needs you may have and research the type of tools that can help you attain your goals.
- Develop Workarounds – Find ways to adapt to the increased course load and style of learning. For example go to two sections of the same class in order to give two opportunities to hear the same material. Or schedule classes so there is an hour after each class — while information is fresh — to go over notes.
- Find the Services at Your College – Make sure to know where the disability service office is at your school. Don’t wait until you are behind to seek the help of the special education team at your school. Bring in the correct documentation that can be passed along to the professors on what your disability is and how they can better help you succeed.
- Do Your Homework! – Before deciding on a college or university find out which ones are best at handling special needs students. Two resources that may help include: Understood ( A website for students with learning and attention issues.) Almost all colleges and universities provide some level of services and/or accommodations for learning disabled students, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The colleges and universities listed below go a step further…they offer programs, some quite comprehensive, designed to support students with learning disabilities.(Source- http://www.college-scholarships.com/schools/colleges-with-programs-for-students-with-learning-disabilities/)
Abilene Christian University
American International College
California State University Fullerton
Clarion University of Pennsylvania
Community College of Allegheny County
College of Charleston
College of Mount St. Joseph
College of St. Catherine
Columbia College – Chicago
De Paul University
Diablo Valley College
East Carolina University
Eastern New Mexico University – Roswell
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Fairleigh Dickinson University
Iowa State University
Johnson State College
Kent State University
La Roche College
Long Island University/C.W. Post Campus
Marymount Manhattan College
Missouri State University
New York Institute of Technology
Nicholls State University
Notre Dame College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rocky Mountain College
St. Ambrose University
St. Mary’s University of Minnesota
St. Michael’s College
Santa Monica College
Southeast Missouri State University
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Southern Oregon University
Southern Vermont College
State University of New York College at Oneonta
Texas State University-San Marcos
Texas Tech University
University of Akron
University of Arizona
University of Connecticut
University of Denver
University of Indianapolis
University of Iowa
University of Memphis
University of Minnesota at Duluth
University of the Ozarks
University of Southern California
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
West Virginia Wesleyan College
Milestones strives to have each student graduate with the necessary life skills to thrive in the world of post-secondary education, independent living and employment. Gaining real life employment experience is one of the critical components therefore to the Transition Program. Students who are 14 years and older can participate in internships that can prepare them to be successful in the workforce. Some of the current internships include: the Blue Hill Weather Observatory, Newton Wellesley Hospital, Waltham Courtyard Marriott, Springwell, Waltham YMCA, Newton Public Library, Perkins School for the Blind, and the Waltham 4-H. Students not only are guided by members of the workplace but also by Milestones staff who serve as job coaches. Let’s look at some of the overall benefits for internships and how your child may benefit from enrollment in one.
- Gain valuable work and life experience – Students who have work experience tend to understand the responsibilities of the workforce and have been able to practice specialized skills for the field.
- Makes a job a reality – Many times students have a vision of what a career path may entail. An internship can sort out the reality of working in a specific field vs the dream.
- Course credit – Many schools offer course credit to train as an intern.
- Make professional Contact and Build a Resume – Employers are always looking for real-world experience. An internship may put a student above other applicants who have not taken part in an work program. Internships make for an excellent point on a resume to future employers.
- Work Skills – Nothing improves work skills quite like practicing them weekly. It is amazing how students can gin confidence and a major boost in self esteem when they complete work assignments and get positive feedback.
One of the major goals of the Transition Program at Milestones is to prepare students socially and academically for both real life employment experience as well as the tools to succeed at college courses. The Dual Enrollment Program can help students further that goal while still a student at Milestones. Let’s take a look at this program and it see if it might be a good fit for your older child.
What is Dual Enrollment?
In general, Dual Enrollment involves students being enrolled in two separate, academically related institutions- typically a high school students taking college courses. For Milestones students this may mean taking a college course at a local community college or a participating four year college while concurrently attending Milestones classes- gaining credits both at the high school and the college. Milestones has partnered with Mass Bay Community College to offer this program for our students. In most cases day, evening, weekend and online courses are available as part of Dual Enrollment.
The Benefits of Dual Enrollment- There is a growing body of evidence that students who take part in this type of program see a greater level of success in college both academically and socially. Here are some other key points to consider:
- Each student has a transition counselor at the high school and a Dual Enrollment Coordinator at the college who is advising and guiding along the way.
- Students can choose areas of strength and high interest classes that maybe are not offered at their high school. .
- Students gain access to academic and student support services, including academic advising, career counseling, free tutoring, computer labs, and library access.
- Dual enrollment gives students an idea of what full-time college coursework will be like by trying out a few classes while still in high school, This way your child can get used to the academic environment before he or she leaves the comfort and support of home and high school.
- Perhaps the biggest benefit of dual enrollment is that your student may start accumulating college credits, helping him or her graduate on time or even early.