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In order to be an active participant in the transition planning process, your autistic teen needs to develop self-determination skills – the skills that enable individuals to speak up for what they want, what they’re interested in, and how they would like to accomplish it. Self-determination skills also allow individuals to have a strong understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, feel in control of their own lives, make important decisions, and figure out creative solutions to problems.

To be an active participant in the transition planning process, your autistic young adult, to the best of their ability, should be able to:

  • Communicate their preferences
  • Make choices based on individual preferences
  • Set goals or help choose relevant goals
  • Identify and solve problems that may arise
  • Advocate for themselves

These skills can be built into the transition plan as behavioral goals, since it may take time to be able to accomplish them. Every one of these skills that your child develops will help make them become a more active participant in the transition planning process. If your school is reluctant to include these goals as early as you have suggested, consider embedding the same goals in other categories in your child’s current IEP (e.g., adaptive, social, and behavior).

School transition teams may not be aware of the benefits of student-centered planning or even the current laws that mandate student participation in the transition planning process, so it is important to discuss this approach with the IEP team. Your child has a right to participate in this process; under IDEA, students with disabilities must be invited to transition planning meetings. Additionally, research shows that developing the self-determination skills that are emphasized in student-centered planning results in better outcomes in academics, independent living, and employment for students with disabilities (Shogren et al., 2015). Finally, students become more motivated to meet their IEP goals if they have a say in defining them and understand why they are important.


This post was adapted from Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide for Transition to Adulthood (2nd edition, 2021)Click here to download or order the guide.