Helping Your Teen on the Spectrum to Prepare for Adulthood

"I have a 17 year old with autism (high functioning). She was a late diagnosis (wasn’t diagnosed until age 15). How do you help a teen with transition services (e.g., getting a job, learning to drive, going to college, etc.) when she doesn’t have any desire to learn or do any of those things?"

Unfortunately, the diagnoses of High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's does not receive the same government support as do other more well-known disabilities. When financial assistance is not available for therapy or medication, disorders go untreated, and the teenager with HFA experiences emotional and social difficulties. 

If you can afford medical services, obtain them as soon as you can. If you cannot afford such services, check with your daughter’s school. They can design an individualized treatment plan (IEP) for her. 

 The ideal treatment plan involves your daughter, a therapist, her teachers, and her parents. While you may not be able to afford therapy for your daughter, you will learn a lot of coping principles at the treatment plan meetings.

A quick, easy way for you to start helping your daughter is to begin reading books and e-books about the disorder. There are many titles on the subject. Start by going on the internet and typing the words “girls with high functioning autism” or “autistic teens.” These resources can be purchased on the Internet, or you can make note of the titles and take them to your local bookstore. They will order them for you. 

In addition to the Internet, keep up with the information provided on this website. Make it a habit to read the questions and answers on this website to get the information you need. 

Another source of information is your nearest Autism or Asperger’s Association and support group. They will refer you to free or low cost services available in your area.

All parents of children on the autism spectrum worry about their child’s diagnosis as well as their future. There is an excellent video available titled “Asperger’s Syndrome: Transition to College and Work” by Dan and Julie Coulter.

At the age of 17, your daughter is coping with adolescence in addition to her diagnosis. Talk with her about the future, and discuss the benefits of driving, going to work, and attending college. Don’t expect her to make conclusive decisions about these subjects - especially college.

Prioritize her issues. First, make sure she gets treatment for her disorder. See if there is a teen support group in your area, and take the rest slowly. Her first goal should be learning about - and getting treatment for - her symptoms.

One educational option for your daughter is a junior college as opposed to a university. Colleges are now accommodating their growing populations of disabled students who begin their studies with a variety of diagnoses. 

 Community college can be an excellent choice for a "special needs" student, because students at community colleges get more counseling support, and since most community college students are still living at home, they have fewer new adjustments to make. 

Whether she chooses a community or four year college, it is best to find one that offers special programs for students with disabilities. Before enrolling, students with an autism spectrum disorder need help planning a manageable course load.

One way to help prepare your daughter for adulthood is a part-time job while in high school. See if you can determine your daughter’s vocational strengths and interests that will help her be successful with part-time employment. 

She most certainly has a special interest or hobby. See if there's a part-time employment opportunity that ties into her favorite activity. Across the country, employment opportunities are quite high currently, with a lot of businesses unable to find enough workers to fill the openings. Use this to your favor.


Parents' Comments:
  • Ageless student said...My 16 year old daughter is also a high functioning Asperger teen. Her therapist and I have agreed for some time now, however others refuse to accept it, including my daughter. She is intellectually very smart, but has no motivation and no idea what she wants to do in the future, although she says she wants to go to college. She is extremely smart intellectually, but has difficulty with keeping her grades up. She is afraid to drive (although does not admit it...just says she doesn't want too), refuses to consider getting a job. I believe much of it is due to immaturity and difficulty with any type of transition. We have provided her with every type of service available to us, to no avail. She has been in therapy for many years now and just recently we have seen a very slight (baby step) improvement. Even that small improvement shows she is moving forward and that is all I can hope for.
  • FrankieThaLuckyDog said...I have Asperger's...; have courage! I got my license from a special driver's center at 19. And, at 25 now, I still deal with immaturity with developing friendships, and I don't have a job, but am searching. I'm very talented, but no one's considering me for tha field I'm in, yet (video production/editing). So, by not bein' hired, at tha moment, I'm staying VERY active by making my own VH1-like video countdowns, of my Top 50, 100 moments/songs I like, during a particular era.
  • pooter527 said...Sounds like you are doing very well. Good luck.

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