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Autism Website Seeks Transition Success Stories

Roanoke, VA (PRWEB) April 13, 2012

Autism After 16 is searching for success stories. The website, which focuses on information and analysis of adult autism issues, wants to shine a light on examples of best practice in Transition services for students with autism. Under federal law, special needs students must receive public education services until they graduate from high school with a standard diploma or until they age out of the system, typically in the year they turn 21. From age 16 on, focus should be placed on transitioning students from high school to what comes next. The public education system is supposed to provide individualized assessments, skill development, and community experiences to create a bridge to postsecondary training or employment. These services should be spelled out in detail in each student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Federal mandate doesn’t always translate into practice, however. What Autism After 16 readers indicate is that Transition services for their children with autism are often ill-fitting or insufficient. While a great deal of information is available to families and educators alike on developing good Transition programming, actual services seem to be falling short. “We sense that many families are experiencing the very real gap between theory and practice,” says editor Merope Pavlides. “First of all, many families don’t seem to understand their rights regarding graduation and Transition services. Even when they do, they seem to be up against IEP teams that either don’t know how to adequately assess students with autism and create appropriate IEP goals, or are unwilling to do so.”

Families are concerned about the quality of Transition services because opportunities after high school for students with autism can be bleak. Paul Shattuck, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, studies outcomes for youth with autism as they move into adulthood. His study, “Post-High School Service use Among Young Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder,” was recently chosen as one of the 20 most significant autism research contributions for 2011 by the US Department of Health and Human Services Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). “Autistic young adults are at high risk for being disconnected from postsecondary education and work opportunities,” says Shattuck. “The types and amounts of supportive services available tend to decrease when youth finish high school and are no longer eligible for special education. In fact, many families refer to this transition as like being pushed off a cliff.” Quality Transition services are a first step in helping young adults with autism become contributing members of their communities. “A positive transition creates a solid foundation for an adaptive adult life course, and a negative transition can set the state for a pathway fraught with developmental, health and social difficulties,” Shattuck notes.

Rather than simply focusing on the stories of failure, however, Autism After 16, wants to find Transition models that are working. “A big part of our mission at AA16 is to identify and analyze services—not just at Transition, but across lifespan—that are working well. It’s important not just to cry out against the absence of supports, but to focus on how to develop them in a way that can be replicated and sustained,” says Pavlides. “So we want to hear stories of when Transition is working well, and share them in the hopes that those programs can serve as models for other communities.”

If your family has experienced well-designed and implemented Transition services for a student with autism, contact Autism After 16 by emailing transition(at)autismafter16(dot)com.

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