Transition means extra planning for young ASD adults…
While Jeremy was growing up, I never imagined he would graduate from high school, let alone attend college—but eventually he took and passed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), and graduated with a full academic diploma.
We started looking into the local colleges while he was still in high school and realized Jeremy had a lot to learn to be prepared for life as a college student. Preparing the transition to college takes planning and preparation. There are differences between the rights and responsibilities of students in high school and college, and the parents’ roles are different as well. Skills in self-advocacy, organization and social communication need to be developed before the student leaves high school.
Differences Between High School And College
In college, a student age 18 or older is responsible for all his interactions and communication with the school personnel. This is one of the reasons it is so important for the parent to mentor the high school student to acquire his own advocacy skills.
Students have different legal rights and responsibilities in college. Up until he or she graduates from high school or ages out of the school district, a student is protected under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). After that, the student is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) and other laws.
Another major difference between high school and college is that certain accommodations are possible under ADA, but modifications in homework or coursework are not allowed. For example, in high school, a student may have been allowed to turn in a shorter term paper compared to the other students. In college, he would be required to do the same workload as everyone but he or she may receive extended time to turn it in.
It’s important for both parents and students to realize that a student who struggles in the public school setting may be protected because the school is required to serve the student, but this is not the case in college. In college, it is up to the student to ask for the help he or she needs to keep up with the workload.
What The Student Needs To Learn In High School
Many students on the spectrum are more successful in some academic subjects than their neurotypical classmates, yet they usually have difficulty with organization, planning, and communicating with others. Opportunities for honing these skills can be provided through the IEP and by writing goals and objectives related to these needs.
Students need to learn what accommodations they have, and why they need them in order to become self-advocates once in college. While in high school, the student can learn to take more responsibility for communicating with the school staff in regards to their needs, with mentoring provided by the parent or another trusted adult. Preparing for and actively participating in IEP and ITP meetings is a good way to practice self-advocacy and communication skills.
Ensuring that the student has a planning and organizational system that works for him or her before leaving high school is crucial, since a college schedule is typically not as structured as high school. Having a familiar organizational system that can be transferred to college can be very helpful to the student who will have more responsibility and control over his time and planning.
Finding The Right College
As mentioned earlier, expect a big adjustment period. There is a wide disparity between the type of services that different colleges provide, and you will have to do your homework in helping your young adult find a college understanding of his or her needs.
Disabled Student Services were first set up at colleges for accommodating those with physical disabilities. They understood the accommodations needed by those who had physical limitations, and over the years they have become more knowledgeable about the accommodations needed to aid those with learning disabilities. Now, with more teenagers on the spectrum graduating from high school, there are more colleges and programs with a better understanding of the accommodations and social supports needed for a student on the spectrum to be successful at college.
During Jeremy’s last years in high school, we added goals in his IEP that shifted the responsibility to him for more and more direct communication with his teachers and administrative staff. Additionally, we had goals for organizing and planning school projects and study time, and directing staff on research for projects. This was all very helpful in getting him used to realizing that it was his responsibility to make sure he got the work he needed done in time, in order to be successful.
The transition to college can be scary for both the parent and the student, but with preparation and practice, it can be a successful and exciting chapter in the family’s life.