1. Autism
  2. Development
  3. Social & emotional development

Planning the transition to adulthood for teenagers with ASD

12-18 years

With careful planning in the secondary school years, you can help your child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) make the transition to adulthood. As part of your planning, it’s important to look at your child’s strengths, interests and support needs.

Becoming an adult: your child with ASD

Leaving school and becoming an adult are big changes for your child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), so the transition to adulthood needs careful planning.

It’s a good idea to start planning early in the secondary school years. This will give you plenty of time to work on the skills your child needs to achieve his goals. It will also give you time to find out about support for your child, depending on what he wants to do.

Making a plan for the transition to adulthood

A good way to prepare your child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for adulthood is to draw up a transition plan. This is a detailed plan for helping your child with change.

Each child’s transition plan will be unique, but all transition plans should cover the following areas:

  • Details about the change: what will happen, where and when? What are your child’s goals, and when do you hope your child will achieve them?
  • Your child’s needs: what needs to happen and when? Who will make sure each need is met?
  • History: how has your child coped with transitions in the past? What has and hasn’t worked? How you can use this knowledge to plan for this change?
  • Support: what support does your child need to make the transition to adulthood and to reach her goals?

When you’re making the plan, think about your child’s current strengths, abilities and needs, and also what strategies and supports work for him. Talk with and include input from anyone who works with your child, such as teachers, school staff, support staff and therapists.

You can use all this knowledge and these different perspectives to create a well-rounded, thorough plan.

If your child is in Year 8 or above and the school hasn’t started developing a transition plan with you, talk to your child’s teacher about getting the process started.

Your child’s goals for adulthood

Your child’s transition plan should include short-term and long-term goals for when she leaves school. You might need to use pictures or Social Stories™.

What will your child do when he leaves school?
If your child wants a job, you could consider what sort of jobs might suit his interests and strengths and how he could apply his strengths in the workforce. For example, if your child loves animals and is good with them, he might get a job grooming animals.

Volunteer and paid work in the teenage years can help you and your child work out whether your child’s interests can be turned into longer-term employment goals.

Is your child interested in further education? Options might include university or vocational education and training.

Where will your child live?
Your child might be able to live independently with some guidance from you, or supported accommodation in the community might be an option. Think about what independent living skills your child has – for example, skills for looking after herself, managing her time, using public transport and making appointments.

If your child needs to stay living at home, now is a good time to think long term. For example, who will look after him if something happens to you in the future?

This can also be a good time to review your options for financial planning, wills and trusts.

Social and community involvement
Your child might be keen to carry on with social, recreational or community activities that she enjoys at school. She might also be keen to try something new. These sorts of activities can help young adults feel connected to their local community.

Developing skills for adulthood

Part of planning the transition to adulthood is thinking about whether your child’s goals and expectations match his current abilities. If they don’t, your child will need support to reach his goals.

For example, if your child wants to work after she finishes school, but she has a lot of anxiety, you could focus on helping her understand and control the anxiety so that she can cope better in a work environment. Or your child might need to practise social skills for getting along with supervisors and coworkers. Your child’s school counsellor or a psychologist could help your child develop these skills.

If your child wants to be more independent, he might need to learn skills for daily living, such as how to buy something in a shop and how to count change. Occupational therapists can help your child develop these daily living skills.

Your child might also need to make a transition to the adult health care system.

Support services for adults with ASD

As part of your planning, it’s a good idea to look into services for adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in your area. There might be services that help with routine activities, such as grocery shopping, or organised social outings, such as going to see a movie with other adults.

If your child needs a lot of support to find a job, Disability Employment Services can put her in touch with organisations that not only employ people with ASD, but that also appreciate their strengths.

For young people with ASD who want to go to university, the Australian Government helps university students with disability through the Higher Education Disability Support Programme. You’ll also need to talk to individual universities about their disability services.

There are also programs for people with disability to help them feel connected to their community and socialise with others. The activities can include skill development or they might be recreational – for example, swimming programs at the local pool. Your state autism association will be able to help you find a program for your child.

Reviewing your child’s transition plan

Despite your best efforts, there probably will be challenges as your child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) matures – and you can’t plan for everything. This is why regularly reviewing your child’s transition plan is important. You might do this every six months in secondary school, and more often shortly before and after the transition.

An important part of reviewing the plan is talking with school staff and other professionals involved in your child’s care to see how your child is going. For example, is he struggling in any areas ? Are there areas that he’s going really well in?

You can adjust the transition plan to take these sorts of things into account.

Getting help with planning for transition to adulthood

If you need help finding out what resources are available for your child, the National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) Programme helps young people move in and out of school, work, university, and vocational education and training.

National Disability Insurance Scheme

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a new national system that funds support services for children and adults with permanent and significant disability. This includes young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

If you live in an NDIS trial area, you’ll work with a planner to draw up an individual support plan for your child with ASD. The NDIS individual support plan aims to help you work out:

  • what type of support your child needs
  • who the relevant service providers are
  • what funds are available for your child’s services.

There’s likely to be a lot of overlap between this individual support plan and your child’s transition plan. The individual support plan looks at the big picture, and the transition plan focuses on the details of the steps needed for your child to reach her goals.


Preparing for adulthood: teenagers with autism spectrum disorder


In this short video, parents discuss the transition into adulthood for their teenagers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They talk about having a good support network, so their child can get good advice and learn practical skills. Parents discuss possible jobs their children might do when they get older. One mum says, ‘I would always encourage him to follow his aspirations’.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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