Children with autism spectrum disorders often receive support in school through special education, school psychologists and other services, and parents are usually closely involved in helping to develop their child’s treatment plan and following up to make sure that treatment is as effective as possible.
Once a child with autism turns 18, the situation changes. Although an adult with autism may benefit from continued treatment, and parents may be funding that treatment, parents will not necessarily have the same access to their adult child’s treatment providers, and thus cannot play the same role. In addition, it can be an important step for a young adult with autism to begin playing more of a role in directing his or her own treatment. However, this can often be a struggle.
For students on an individualized education program (IEP) in high school, there is a legal requirement that a plan be developed to help the student transition into adulthood. Research has shown that the more students can be encouraged to develop self-determination, the more they will be able to participate in their own IEP and transition plan. This transition into self-direction of his or her own treatment will serve the student well as a young adult.
One difficulty that is often encountered with young adults receiving treatment for autism is lack of coordination among multiple service providers. When the young adult was a child, his or her parents or school counselors may have worked to ensure that different types of treatment fit into a cohesive treatment plan. As an adult, it is important for a person with autism to understand, as much as possible, the goals of treatment and be able to judge whether or not various treatment options are meeting those goals. Needless to say, each young adult with autism has different capabilities, but the if parents work with their child toward self-determination during the teenage years, then the person will be more able to participate in his or her own treatment as an adult.
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