Post-school education: Autism support for young adults
If you are on the autism spectrum and nearing the end of school, you will likely be feeling both excited and overwhelmed about what comes next – just like every other student! Autistic young adults, with the right support in place, can feel confident walking into the next chapter of their life with confidence.
Here are a few things you may be thinking about, including what tertiary schools for adults with autism are available to you, as well as some helpful tips for a smooth transition from the environment you know, to one that’s new but also pretty exciting.
Finishing school as a young adult with autism
Transitions can be challenging for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autistic people tend to enjoy having structure, routine and predictability in their lives, so a shake up of this may inevitably cause some stress. But the good news is, with support and a plan in place, this anxiety can be greatly eased.
First though, let’s take a look at what sort of post-schooling study options are available to you.
Schools for adults with autism
Many people with ASD pursue higher education, earning degrees or diplomas and practising the skills they will need for adult life. When it comes to formal tertiary education, your options are much the same as neurotypical students, only you may be eligible to access additional support, which will help you gain your qualifications.
Whether you chose to pursue study at University, TAFE, doing short courses at community colleges or undergo a traineeship, it’s important you know your rights when it comes to education support.
Also consider looking into specific vocational training programs for autistic adults, such as computer programming for adults with ASD.
Autism support on campus
Under the Education Standards of the Disability Act, all education providers, including universities and TAFEs must consult with students with disabilities about what supports they need and make reasonable adjustments.
As such, most campuses will have disability support staff who will work with you to develop a Learning Access Plan (LAP) or Reasonable Adjustment Plan (RAP) which outlines what learning supports or adjustments can be put in place for you. For example, if a large examination room will be too distracting for you, then you could sit the exam in another quieter room.
Speaking with the Student Counselling Service on the campus about how they can support your education journey, can help you to decide if this is the right fit for you.
Planning for change
Once you have decided what sort of post-school study or training you might want to undertake, you can start to plan for this change. Doing preparatory activities can greatly reduce the stress of transitions, reassure you and even boost confidence.
This can include:
- Downloading a map of the campus so you know where everything is
- Going to open days and having a walk around or arranging an additional private visit by contacting the institution’s disability support staff
- Identifying quiet areas, such as the library or an unpopulated outdoor space, where you might want to go if feeling stressed or agitated
- Taking photos of key locations so you can study these at home and feel familiar with them before the semester starts
- Reading information about the campus on their website and attending orientation and information sessions
- Figuring out how you will get to and from the campus and how long this will take so you can plan what time you’ll need to leave by.
Through Mable, you can find an Independent Support Worker trained in autism to assist you in making these preparations. Together you could write checklists of what needs to be done and then tick these off as you do them. For example:
- Meet with campus disability support staff and request accommodations
- Get a student identification card
- Attend a library information session
- Locate where all the lecture theaters are on the campus map that I’ll be going to in the first week
- Check the bus timetable to see if there is a night bus for the late class.
Your support worker could also accompany you to campus orientations and meetings and take notes, or help with communication if needed.
Know your strengths
In addition to these practical preparations, it’s also a great idea to remind yourself of your strengths and skills. Try to frame these in ways which will be beneficial for tertiary study.
For example, do you have a good memory for facts? If so, this will make learning all the new campus factual information much easier for you. Or do you have an extensive knowledge of a particular subject area? This shows you can be highly motivated to learn more about topics which interest you – a drive that will serve you well when studying.
Write a list of some of your skills, strengths and abilities and next to each, state how this will help you in your course. If you ask a loved one to also do this, then chances are they will second what you say, confirming that you should absolutely pursue further study.
Transitioning from secondary school to post-school study can be daunting, but by researching different schools for adults with autism and learning about the support provided, as well as taking steps to prepare for this change, you can shift your anxiety to excitement.
You’ve got this!
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