When to start planning for your autistic child’s future?

If your child has an Individualized Education Plan, IEP, the law requires the special education committee to start transition planning by age 16. However, you can start transition planning earlier to make sure all aspects of your child’s life are addressed in the transition plan in a way that sets your child up for success.

Veda Collmer
When to start planning for your autistic child’s future?

What is a transition plan?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates the school special education committee start planning your child’s move from school to post-graduation life by age 16.  The IEP must have transition goals that are:

  • Individualized
  • Based on your child’s strengths, preference, and interests
  • Inclusive of all aspects of life- community living, work, independence

You and your child must be a part of the planning process.  For more information about the transition planning process, check out this excellent Transition Planning Bible, located on the Hulme Resources website.  

If your child does not have an IEP or your child is younger than 16 years old, you can start the transition planning process today by taking the following actions:

Teach your child about their strengths and interests

We all have strengths and interests.  Confidence comes with leveraging our strengths to pursue our interests, while identifying strategies for overcoming our challenges.  Spending time identifying strengths and talking with your child about how to use their strengths will empower your child to take on new challenges.  

  • Use this Simplicable strengths guide to discuss different strengths.  Shorten the list to just a few strengths based on your child’s age and developmental understanding.  High5Test offers another strengths guide to help you describe certain strengths to your child.
  • List your child’s strengths on a piece of paper.  Tape it to the bathroom mirror so they will see it daily.  Remind them to call on their strengths when faced with a challenge.  Model this behavior by identifying and calling on your own strengths when tackling a tough issue.
  • Complete this Career Interest Inventory Assessment for Elementary School Students by the College Foundation of North Carolina.  
  • Allow your child to explore different interests and share in your interests.  Make it fun and not a chore.  If your child is very focused on a small number of interests, learn about what they like about their interests and find related interests to expand their horizons.  

Teach your child to overcome challenges

We all have challenges.  Overcoming challenges leads to confidence.  Teaching your child how to overcome challenges as early as possible will pave the way for their later transition to adulthood.

  • Use the Job Accommodation Network database to brainstorm ways to overcome challenges. Include your child in looking through the database so that they identify it as a resource.
  • Encourage your child to talk about why some activities are difficult and how the environment or activity can be changed to make things easier.  This strategy turns your child into a problem solver, who looks for resources and solutions to overcome barriers.    
  • Teach your child to identify different supports to overcome challenges.  Supports can come in the form of professionals, friends, or family members.

Promote independence as early as possible

Based on your child’s age and developmental abilities, work on improving their independence as soon as possible.  Include simple chores into their daily life.  Help them complete the chores and slowly fade out support to promote independence.  Create visual schedules to help them manage their time.  Fade out supports over time to promote independence.  Developing independence gradually and early will set your child up for success during transition planning.  

Work on pre-employment tasks at home

Jobs require certain foundational skills for success.  Teach your child these skills early so they become habits.  The complete list is on page 11 of the Transition Planning Bible, but here are some examples to implement right now:

  • Work on the skill of finishing a task by having your child put away their laundry.  In the beginning, show them what to do and then ask them to complete the task under your supervision.  Later, you will check on task completion without supervising the task itself.
  • The prior example also addresses the skill of working independently.  Once your child masters the ability to put away their laundry without your watchful eye, they will have accomplished a big milestone.
  • Work on a family project together, like refurbishing a bookcase.  This task will address problem-solving, completing activity steps, working neatly, and working without complaining.  You have an opportunity to model these skills for your child during the project.  


Planning for your child’s future should start as early as possible.  It is better to start planting foundational skills for adulthood as early as elementary school.  An occupational therapist can help you modify or adapt activities based on your child’s development abilities.  An occupational therapist can also help promote independence by gradually fading out support.  

If you are interested in learning how VedaOT can help you start planning early for your child’s future, contact us at info@vedaot.com.

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