Life After High School for Autistic Students. Everyone walks a different path. If your child has autism, you may be wondering what their path might be. With high school graduation quickly approaching, it feels like time is running out to find the best option that works for them.
Let’s get you to motivate with this quick video.
Let’s cut straight to the chase. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you are looking for options for autistic young adults post-graduation.
If this is the case, you can take a deep breath and calm down.
While it’s nerve-wracking for any parent to think about what their child will do after high school, we know that it is especially worrying for parents in your situation.
Still, with several options available for autistic children, you can let go of some of that worry you’ve been holding in.
In this guide, we’ll tell you all you need to know about your child’s upcoming options.
We’ll also break down key data concerning children in similar situations.
Are you ready? Let’s begin.
You know how your child is, but how do other children in similar situations fare?
A look at the data gives a bleak response.
According to research, only one-third of autistic children continue to pursue their education with two or four-year degrees after high school.
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Half of these students, however, dropped out of education completely. What’s more surprising is that they didn’t join the workforce.
This means that many autistic children who have fallen off the “service cliff” find little recourse outside of their parents’ homes.
While this isn’t a heartening statistic, it does shed light on the situation and provide hope for the future.
By understanding this data, we can begin to identify the reasons autistic children aren’t succeeding in their potential and start to address these issues years before graduation.
This is already the case in many situations, as more and more parents begin working with their children years before the end of high school to make them aware of their options and prepare them for the next step.
Working with Your Child
In order to make sure that their autistic children are prepared for life after high school, many parents begin working early.
Generally speaking, the federal government mandates transition planning guidelines that are designed to help autistic children transition between life in school and after graduation.
These transition programs focus on a few broad categories:
Employment: One of the major skills your child will learn during the transition process is how to be gainfully employed.
Because autism enables every child differently, it’s important to have a team in place that can help your child transition to the workforce—their way.
The transition process is all about making life after high school manageable for your child.
This focus of transition programs will teach your child the skills needed to follow a job and interact with coworkers and patrons.
Postsecondary Education/Training: Not all autistic children will jump straight to the workforce, however.
For those to whom postsecondary education is a possibility, transition teams will focus on the skills needed to manage life at college.
This requires great social education and a focus on the differences between high school and college education and requirements.
Helping children transition to postsecondary training options is also available.
Independent Living: Transition teams will also focus on giving your child the skills necessary to live alone.
While the results depend on the degree of autism a child experiences, independent living training has proved highly effective at giving autistic individuals a sense of self and independence.
This is crucial for students who are graduating high school and need to find their niche in the “real world.”
Community Involvement: Community involvement is also a goal of many transition teams.
With a focus on building social skills and a desire to help the community, this part of the program helps your child develop the skills necessary to operate in the society around him.
This is crucial for any autistic child who is looking to go to college or enter the workforce.
The Problem of College
With one-third of autistic children choosing to attend college, it’s important to understand the viability of this option for your child.
In general, autistic individuals find it harder to meet the daily challenges of college.
Some students report not being able to keep up with the workload and struggling to live on their own.
Still, it’s often the case that these problems can be met and even overcome with a little extra effort.
For that reason, let’s look at a few of the most common problems autistic children may face at the collegiate level.
Staying Organized—As a parent of an autistic child, you might already know the struggle with staying organized. By this, we don’t just mean the cleanliness with which your child keeps their room.
We’re also talking about their planning skills.
The idea of waking up in the morning, washing off, eating breakfast, and getting ready maybe too much for some autistic children to handle every morning.
Without a diagram, some children are unable to follow this process smoothly.
That’s why it’s often helpful to guide your children through the process in their new environment or create them flowcharts that can help them keep the activities straight.
Timeliness—Many autistic children lack the motor function to move or work quickly. When this is the case, it often becomes difficult to finish tasks on time.
Though autistic children are often smart enough to get good grades and even outcompete their classmates, they may take longer to do assignments and to complete tests.
This can be a problem in some situations, where professors demand a strict timeline for work.
In general, however, classrooms are forced to be accommodating to those who are differently-abled.
This means that your child will have some institutional protections that allow him to succeed in their own time and without being compared directly to their classmates.
Social Skills—When autistic children live alone and are surrounded by thousands of students every day, they often find it difficult to function socially.
In these situations, they may become reserved or nervous.
That’s why transition planning is key to make sure that your child is socially ready for the challenges of college and for the number of interactions he or she is likely to make on a daily basis.
Autism and the Workforce
Recent data suggest that between 85-80% of autistic adults are unemployed.
As the parent of an autistic child, you already know that this isn’t because of ability. In fact, of the small percentage of autistic adults who do hold down a job, many of them are employed below their means.
What does this mean for your child?
Simply put, it means that the social challenges of a job could be too much to handle without proper transition planning or training.
In many cases, autistic individuals fail to land jobs simply because they lack the proper social cues to pass the interview stage.
If this is the case, proper interview training can go a long way to helping those with autism gain employment.
What’s more, these days an increasingly large number of companies have begun to focus on the enhanced skills that many autistic individuals have, including the
Increased awareness of autism means that your child will have increasingly-more opportunities in the workplace.
In general, some workplaces are now placing an emphasis on the following categories in order to provide autistic employees with the support they need:
- Visual Support
- Job Coaches
- Wait Time
- Written Instructions
These tools are designed to give autistic employees the guidance and direction they need to properly maneuver the workforce.
Though the number of companies that actively participate in autism awareness is still comparatively low, this number is only expected to grow in the coming years.
Still, you may be surprised by just how many businesses have teamed up with autism awareness and research groups in order to combat the stigma against those on the spectrum.
Major companies Amazon and Staples have both publicly pledged to hire autistic individuals and have teamed up with the autism initiative ADVICE.
Other employers such as Microsoft, Ford, and SAP are part of the Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable and are actively hiring individuals with autism.
For a more detailed list of jobs and businesses that support those on the spectrum, organizations such as Autism Speaks prove helpful.
A visit to this nonprofit organization’s website also gives detailed information for autistic job seekers and provides fundamental employment information and advice.
If you are unsure what opportunities your child may have after graduation, consider a visit to this major autism-oriented research site.
Other Helpful Resources
Not sure where else to turn? There are several online resources that can help those with autism transition to the workforce. A few of them include:
- US Dept. of Labor: Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
- Job Accommodations Network (JAN)
- Think Beyond the Label
In addition to these sites, parents are encouraged to check out Project SEARCH, an organization that works with schools, universities, and companies to provide autistic students with the work experience they need to succeed in life.
Among the skills taught as part of this program are staying focused on the task at hand, time management, customer service, and more.
Project SEARCH is designed to get autistic individuals into the community in a positive way.
For this reason, it’s an increasingly popular option for parents who want their children to succeed post-graduation.
Not sure how to enroll in these programs?
As you wait to get your child in, there are a variety of at-home activities you can do to help him transition to adult life.
Some of these activities include grocery shopping, walking in public, and taking public transportation.
Those these may seem like small first steps, they are often huge improvements for children with autism.
Of course, this guide is meant only as a reference and not to replace a doctor’s advice.
We do not encourage your child’s participation in any activity or event that their doctor does not advise.
What This Means for You and Your Family
As autism awareness grows and more and more schools, colleges, and businesses pledge to accommodate autistic individuals, the outlook for high school students with autism is improving.
Compared to just a decade ago, there are tons of resources out there to help your child transition from high school life to life post-graduation.
Still, it’s important that your child is walked through the process every step of the way.
The current statistics for autistic individuals post-graduation are not positive.
With only one-third going to college and only around 10% gainfully employed, autistic individuals face an uphill battle managing life after graduation.
So what does this mean for you and your family?
Simply put, it means that there’s no time better than now to reach out to qualified autism organizations and get your child the help that she needs to move forward positively in life.
With the proper help, students with autism can transition smoothly into their new roles and can lead successful lives—whether in higher education or in the workforce.
This means that you should work with your child one-on-one to test their ability and to find out what type of help it is that she needs.
Of course, you should work with your child’s school to take advantage of any local, state, or federal resources that might benefit your child and help them transition to life after high school.
Most importantly, there’s no need to worry. Despite the stigma against those on the spectrum, there’s increasing hope for those with autism.
This is not only the case in terms of awareness, but also in the opportunities that are being opened by major brands and businesses in the workplace.
So take a deep breath. There’s no need to stress this. With the proper tools, your child is going to be more than okay—she will succeed.