A collaborative study from the universities of New Hampshire and Maine has found that youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) benefited significantly from a family-centered transition services model, with 90 percent of participants finding employment after high school.Students in the trial were ages 16 to 18. Among the positive findings were that those who participated in the project (chosen randomly) "had significantly higher student expectations for the future, parent expectations for the future, self-determination, and vocational decision-making ability than a control group."
Although it should be no surprise to disability rights advocates that providing individually tailored, person-centered approaches in people's home communities and environments works better than the alternatives, it's heartening to have this supported by research. But what is the Family Centered Transition Project and what do they do? Here's information from their website:
The transition services consist of three components over a 6-8 month period:The initial study served 47 young people. The project will continue with three year's worth of funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and will be coordinated in Maine by the Autism Society of Maine and by the Strafford Learning Center in New Hampshire. According to the news article, these organizations plan to work "with schools, developmental service agencies, and vocational rehabilitation agencies to redirect and blend existing transition service funding to support FCTP’s process so more students and families can experience positive outcomes."
Training sessions where families learn practical strategies for person-centered planning, networking, and utilizing a variety of adult service options and resources to design and work towards a positive future beyond high school.
A series of individual planning meetings to plan post-high-school goals, held at the convenience of each student and family, with assistance from a project planning facilitator. The planning results in a family-centered plan with specific goals and an implementation plan. Other family members, friends, and community resource people may participate in one or more meetings as called for by the student and family. The facilitator meets with each student to prepare them for maximum participation in these planning meetings.
Ongoing assistance from a planning facilitator in implementing student plans. This includes career exploration activities with students to investigate career options, such as (a) informational interviews, (b) job shadowing experiences, (c) online or in-person investigation of post-secondary options, and/or (d) unpaid or paid work experiences. Project staff assist students and families to incorporate elements of student plans into their IEPs.
David Hagner of the UNH Institute on Disability says that the goal is much farther reaching than just the next three years: “We use grant funds to fill in gaps while we work on developing and marketing the service, with the expectation that it will be sustainable after the three-year project is over.”
We'd love to hear from you if you took part in this project! Is it something you'd recommend to others who are graduating from high school and looking toward work and careers?