With the Summer months on the horizon, comes the end of another school year. If you have a child that is a senior in high school, that means graduation. If you have a child that is a senior in high school, with autism, that means it’s time for a new transition period. As a parent, you might be wondering what might be next for your child. Maybe they are going to college. Maybe they are going to a trade school. Maybe they are going to work somewhere. Maybe they don’t know what they want to do next.
I happen to be on the autism spectrum and after I graduated high school, I had to go through a transition period. It was new and scary and exciting, all at the same time. But, with the right supports around me, I moved along pretty well.
I would like to share three simple tips that can help your child with autism, have a successful time transitioning after high school. So, here they are:
1. Make a Plan, Even if it’s a Small One
The most important thing you can do as a parent when your child is finishing high school, is to help them have a plan in place, even if it’s a small one. As someone on the autism spectrum, I enjoy structure and don’t do well with the unknown, so I like to always have a plan. After your child graduates, the plan can include a number of things.
If you want to help your child go to college, that’s a plan that plan might include finding a suitable college, looking into college resources, on campus vs. off campus visits, or many other college planning related activities.
If your child wants to try and get a job, that’s a plan that may include meeting with a high school counselor who could have community links for available jobs or working on a resume.
If your child isn’t sure what they want to do and they want to explore different options to find something that best fits what they want to do, that’s a plan that could include sitting down and determining interests that your child would like to pursue.
A plan in this case, means just doing something.
2. Have a Support Figure Lined Up after Graduation
Another great way to help with success for transition after high school, is to allow your child the chance to have a support figure in place, aside from you. As a parent, you do so many great things for your child, but no parent can do everything at once. A great example of a support figure can be a resource teacher from school or a counselor.
If they want to go to college, the support figure can be there to check in on them and ask how school is going or just to be there to talk if your child needs an extra ear. In a college environment, the support figure might be found within the school’s disability support services or university counseling services, as colleges typically have a counseling department.
The same thing can be said about work. If your child gets a job after high school, the support figure can stay in touch with your child to see how the job is going and just generally check in with your child. In this instance, a school guidance counselor might be a good support during work or the employment search. During a visit to a potential workplace, it would be good to ask a manager what support staff might be available on the job site.
It’s important for the support individual to be around after the transition period starts, to help your child deal with change as a way to say, “It’s okay. Change might be scary, but I’m still here. I’ll be around if you have any questions or just want to talk.”
When I graduated high school, I headed off to college. I continued to stay in contact with my therapist and I was glad I did. Having that resource available was great and it was nice having someone other than my parents, that I could talk to.
3. Give Your Child Time
Graduating and experiencing life after high school involves the unknown and probably some trial and error. As a parent, you can help your child by allowing them to try new things when they graduate to let them see what works and what doesn’t. If your child decides to go to college and changes their major ten times, then that’s okay. If they want to get a job and if for some reason it doesn’t work out and they want to try a different job, that’s okay too.
Part of the transition period after high school means that your child will have new experiences to encounter and they might not always be perfect on the first try. Allow extra time for adjustments. If your child will be living independently, there will certainly be time for mistakes and that is okay!
Be a cheerleader during the transition period, not just a coach.
If your child is graduating and going through a transition period, remember these three tips: Make a plan, line up a support figure and allow time to see what works and what doesn’t. By following these three tips, you and your child, could have some nice success during the transition time.