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How Launchpad is helping young people with autism plan for life after school
You can read Kayla's story here. The article from the Illawarra Mercury describes how Launchpad is helping Kayla plan for life after school.
The transition from school was the most traumatic thing. The kids are used to being at school all day and being free to wander and be safe.
It’s traumatic for the parents too, as there can be a big loss of personal freedom.
The year prior to leaving school, I was mourning for what he was about to lose. But now my son has blossomed and matured.
School has been really busy and I am hoping that in the years after school thee will be more spaces in his timetable and we can start some therapies again.
I think my son would benefit from working with a psychologist and also with a speech therapist as he really does talk too loudly and his comprehension is still very behind.
We are used to him, but these things will get in the way of making friends and having good work relationships.
A huge adjustment
That first year, expect there to be a massive adjustment, for your child, and for you.
Leaving school is such a big void you jump into and it took me a year just to climb back out.
Everyone fell off a cliff. The kids were used to Monday – Friday structure and to being with each other. We parents were used to the structure too and it all changed.
The hardest thing is taking ownership of the process of where they are going to go. You need to start this in Year 9 or Year 10, don’t wait until Year 12 as you need to start building relationships and just finding out what sorts of programs is around takes times.
Anne Clement, mother of James
Reflections on Transition
My son has just completed Year 12 and like all transitions this is a very anxiety provoking time – interestingly though more so for myself than my son who now takes everything in his stride, very different compared to when he was younger.
What do I worry about? I worry that he won’t find a job and will struggle to make new friends. I worry that he will spend more and more time at home on his own. I worry that he will just become a number in a system that will promise the world but will not deliver, largely due to under-resourcing rather than anything else.
It’s a very tricky time, because I recognise in my son the same kind of drive for independence and autonomy that is typical of his age but at the same time, left completely to his own devices, he is unlikely to be able to make good decisions in regards to his future without some level of support.
His capacity for weighing up options, realistically consider his strengths and weaknesses and imagining different futures is not on par with his peers.
Therefore I need to walk a fine line between letting him make his own choices but at the same time ensuring that he is provided with whatever extra help he needs to understand the implications of his choices.
On a positive note, this transition from school into adult life has been accompanied by more of an acceptance of who he is as a person.
Throughout his childhood, there was such an emphasis on therapies and interventions to move him along that I sometimes forgot to see the person that he was, instead focusing on the problems that needed “fixing.” Now that he is young man, in many ways he is “fully cooked” and I am more relaxed about accepting who he is and working with what he has and this feels like a load off in many ways.
Best tips for the transition process from one who is the middle of it (they may be different when I get to the other end?!) but so far:
Be proactive: approach services in your area to find out what they are offering, use your networks to foster social inclusion and employment opportunities
Be practical: focus your attention on teaching the skills that matter most in everyday life and encourage independence.
Be positive: focus on your child’s strengths and think outside the square in terms of how their strengths can turn into opportunities for them.
Keep them busy: the greatest risk for a young person with autism when leaving school is to fall into a pattern of non-engagement. Assist them to develop a new post-school routine that incorporates work or work experience, leisure and exercise, further study or practical learning experiences and regular social activities.