Planning for the Future

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by Linda Griffin, Parent Advocate Director

Parents of children with autism are often so busy just getting through the day that they forget to plan for the future.  And that future arrives sooner than you expect.  One day you are struggling with toilet training and IEPs and the next day you look up and your toddler is 6 feet tall and the school bus has stopped coming.  The time to plan for the future is NOW!

If your child is 5 or 10 years old, it may be hard to imagine what life might be like for them as an adult.  No one can predict what is or is not possible.  Begin by thinking and asking questions:

  • Where will my child live, work and play as an adult?
  • How independent will they be?
  • Will they live/work independently or with support?
  • Will they attend vocational school or college?
  • How will they get from where they are now to where they need to be?
  • Who can help us with this transition?

The one thing we parents know about our children with autism is that transitions are difficult.  Planning for transitions is extremely important.  If your child is in public school, a transition plan (also known as an ITP – Individualized Transition Plan) will be developed by the IEP Team (Individualized Education Plan) when your child becomes 14 years old.  The team may include the parents, teachers, guidance counselor, transition counselor, vocational counselor, friends, relatives, and other professionals. The team should also include your child.

This is a perfect time for parents to take advantage of the creative minds and the connections of this team of professionals, friends and relatives.  They can look at your child’s strengths and interests and then help to design a set of activities that can successfully move your child from school to adulthood. The plan should outline the training and support that will be needed.

The destination will be different for each student. Some will:

  • Work independently
  • Work with support
  • Live on their own or in a supported apartment
  • Go to vocational or technical school
  • Go to college

But EVERY child should be taught, supported and encouraged to be as independent as possible. As I have said, planning is important.  Begin now.  Another way to plan is to attend the 2013 ASNC Annual Conference this February.  The theme this year is “Autism Grows Up” and will focus on preparing for adulthood.  Planners recognize that children with autism become adults with autism.  Take this opportunity to meet other families, learn from professionals, listen to the experiences of other individuals and think about the future.

Linda Griffin can be reached at lgriffin@autismsociety-nc.org or 919-865-5090.

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