All Roads Lead to Adulthood

In fact, about 50,000 students with autism are exiting school and entering into adult life each year. It’s widely recognized that adaptive life skills play an extremely important role in increasing adult outcomes. Yet, adaptive skills for life are often underrated by parents and school teams

Transition to adulthood is so important, it’s the first stated purpose of IDEA: 

It states “to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further educationemployment, and independent living

What is Transition?

Transition is a mandated process under the IDEA that prepares your child for further education, employment and independent living for life after high school.

The IDEA states:

Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriately by the IEP team, and updated annually thereafter, the IEP must include:

Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and where appropriate, independent living skills.

The transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.


To learn more about Transition, you can watch this video series from

Transition Planning Can Be Overwhelming

Understanding the transition planning requirements in IDEA can help you work with your child’s IEP team to plan appropriate transition goals and services. Your child, if appropriate, is encouraged to be an integral part of the planning.

Federally, the Transition planning process must be in place by the age of 16. Many states start the process earlier. Find out when the process begins in your state. You can do this by reaching out to your state’s Parent Training Information Center. You can also reach out to your state’s Department of Special Education, your district’s director of special education or your school team.

Your school district might have a transition coordinator or someone devoted to assisting IEP teams with the transition process. Other districts may not. Either way, you should reach out to your school team and get that transition team or person involved in your child’s Transition planning process.

Person-Centered Planning


…This is how I like to start explaining the Person Centered Planning process.

Person-centered planning affords you, your child, the school team and people you and your child choose to be involved (family, friends, etc. ) the opportunity to come together to discuss the vision of your child’s optimistic future. The process delves into your child’s strengths, dreams, weaknesses and concerns, to name a few areas.

From the information, the team develops a plan of action to realize that vision. The plan is a map to keep the team on the right path as you move through the transition process. The most important person in the process is your child and what he, with you and your family, envisions for him.

Person-centered planning is not a required component of transition planning, but it sure is a nice way to get the process started.
Person-centered planning is the umbrella term for a variety of models. Here are some popular Person-centered planning options. If you’re interested in having your school district conduct one, ask your team which one your district school uses and who facilitates them. They may also contract with an outside agency to facilitate the process.

PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope)
MAPs (Making Action Plans)
PFP (Personal Futures Planning).

Transition Specific Assessments

Transition assessments are age-appropriate and identify your child’s strengths, preferences, interests, and needs. Information is gathered in a variety of ways, including formal assessments, student self-assessment, community based, observations, interviews and a variety of other tools. The assessments are used to develop transition IEP goals.

Transition assessments can include the ones identified on the Assessments page. Transition-specific assessments are distinguished by being designed for transition to adulthood for employment, post-high school education or training, and independent living.

What and how many different transition assessments to use will be different  for each student. Areas to assess include, but are not limited to:

  • Employment
  • Post-Secondary Education / Training
  • Independent Living Skills / Activities of Daily Living
  • Community Participation
  • Health, Safety & Sexuality
  • Self-Determination / Self Advocacy
  • Communication
  • Social Skills / Interpersonal

There are a mind-boggling number of transition assessments to consider conducting for students with autism.  Check with your school district and State Department of Special Education for a transition assessment guide. Additionally, work with your child’s IEP team in deciding which assessments to conduct.

Work with your IEP team to determine which assessments are best suited for your child.