Parents of teens with autism and other learning disabilities often fear for the future of their children. During the school years, a child’s life is defined by structure, schedules and protection, but that all can end when they age out of the system. Programs like Transitions support young people through these big changes, but what can parents without access to such programs do to lay the groundwork for success in their son or daughter? The situation is not hopeless. There are concrete strategies you can implement now to enhance skills in the realms of academics, job readiness and independence.
- Sit down with your teen and help them plan out their academic goals, from high school to post-secondary programs to jobs in their field. Make sure all school plans are in service of either a determined career path or useful career exploration, if they are not sure yet.
- Help your teen research post-secondary options. If they are college-bound, look for schools with robust supports available and an environment that sets them up for success. Don’t overlook vocational programs or other non-bachelor degree options if they are right for your teen.
- Teach your teen how to use organization and self-management tools, including planners, calendars, binders, color-coded folders and phone reminders.
- Know the rights and laws that protect your teen at school. Research the school’s policies and available accommodations and teach your teen ways to advocate for what they need.
- Help your teen research to find their dream career. Push them to be honest and self-aware while looking for a job they will both like and excel based on their strengths and weaknesses.
- Seek out chances to build job skills and explore career paths through workplace tours, job shadowing and internships.
- Look for opportunities to teach your teen job skills, such as preparing resumes and cover letters, writing and speaking professionally, typing and other computer skills, administrative tasks and anything else that relates to their target field and/or universal job needs.
- Make sure your teen can get to work when they do get a job, preferably independently. Teach and practice using public transportation, taxis, driving and reading maps.
- Make your teen responsible for maintaining their space, cleaning, chores, dishes, laundry, etc.
- Include them in home maintenance to teach them what to do when something goes wrong.
- Walk your teen through the process of paying bills, making appointments, etc. as you do them.
- Choose some simple, healthy recipes and teach your teen to prepare them.
- Teach budgeting strategies and let them practice by keeping ledgers, using banks and ATMs, checking out at the store independently and getting their own credit/debit cards.
- Teach your teen about reading food labels, eating healthily and including exercise in their day.
- Encourage hobbies, interests and anything enriching that gets your teen out of the house.
- Create checklists, itemized shopping lists and step-by-step guides to any tasks your teen might need help remembering.
Preparing a teen with autism or other learning disabilities to succeed after high school can seem like a daunting task, but it is far from impossible. The sooner you start, the more prepared your teen will be when it comes time to leave home. To learn more about how Transitions programs prepare students to live independently, contact us at (518) 775-5384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author:
Lauren Repholz is Transitions’ program coordinator. She has more than a decade of experience in supporting people to grow and become more independent, both at Transitions and at Lexington, a chapter of The Arc New York, where she was a direct support staff and residential manager. At Transitions, Lauren oversees all aspects of the program and personally administers much of the independent living curriculum.