Taking the Necessary Steps to help your Adolescent with Special Needs Transition into College
By: Esther Hess, Ph.D.
How do you prepare an adolescent impacted by autism spectrum disorder for college? While in high school, these teenagers likely received the continuous support of their parents, school personnel and clinicians. In college, that continuous support can suddenly decrease or even disappear. For many young adults, the absence of appropriate support equates with the potential for a floundering school year.
Just as a team was created for the child with special needs that dealt with early intervention strategies to ensure maximum developmental growth and success, so too, the creation of a team approach to planning the transition to college assures greater potential success. The team should be comprised of the teen, family members, school personnel, psychologist, life skill coach and any other important adult who was pivotal in the success that the adolescent had in high school. Under the direction of the designated leader, the team will be creating a transition plan that first begins by discussing the teen’s strengths and needs in all aspects of life.
There are a number of critical areas that should be taken into account when developing a transition plan including:
*Arranging suitable living and eating arrangements (living at home or dorming with a roommate, for eg.).
*Maintaining healthy habits (including good hygiene and appropriate sleep/wake cycles).
*Establishing a daily routine.
*Building meaningful social relationships.
*Balancing academic and social life.
* Handling academic and interpersonal stress.
*Managing competing responsibilities and deadlines.
*Developing effective study skills.
*Learning how to advocate for oneself.
*Overcoming social/emotional obstacles.
*Identifying sources of support and counseling.
Careful choice of college is an essential part of the transition plan for teens impacted by developmental delay. If a college is a ‘bad fit’ for the student, then even the best plan may not be enough for a successful transition to college.
College characteristics to consider include:
*Location of the campus relative to the teen’s home.
*Physical size of the campus.
*Size of the student population.
*Size of the average class.
*Access to professors and reaching assistants.
*Philosophy of the school towards education specific to the special needs student.
*Quality of student support and accommodations.
*Campus social life.
*Quality of social and emotional support services.
*Quality of career services/internship programs.
Transitioning an adolescent with ASD to college is both challenging and satisfying for every member of a transition team, especially the teen. By anticipating areas of need and developing a transition plan, the team can support the adolescent and increase the likelihood of a smooth transition to college and ultimately, adulthood.
Franklin, D. (2018). Helping a Child with Language-Based learning Difficulties: Strategies to Help
Children with Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, and Auditory Processing Disorders Succeed in
School and Life, New Harbinger Press.