ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)

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Friday, July 14, 2006: 3:30 PM-4:45 PM
Providence Ballroom II
#2313- Beyond High School: Aspergers Syndrome, Autism and Transition to Higher Education
The challenges of supporting individuals with autism through the transition from school to adult life are many. In this session, participants will learn about the characteristics of individuals with aspergers syndrome and autism in adolescence and how those characteristics impact success in high education settings. Participants will also learn about essential, person-centered program components and curriculum adjustments needed to support individuals with ASD in college. Participants will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge to particular case studies.

Presenter:Carol Schall, Ph.D., Virginia Autism Resource Center, Director - Dr. Schall has been supporting individuals with autism for over 20 years. As the director of the Virginia Autism Resource Center, she helps teachers, families, and individuals with ASD. She is skilled in positive behavior supports, and person-centered planning. Her practice and research interests include the use of positive behavior support in place of higher risk interventions such as psychotropic medication use and understanding the impact of dual diagnoses for individuals with ASD. She is the first author of a chapter on autism and transition in the 4th edition of Dr. Paul Wehman’s popular book, Life Beyond the Classroom.
Adolescence is a time of major change for all of us. Physical, psychological, and social changes make this time both challenging and rewarding for the adolescent and those around them. Persons with autism face similar changes; however, difficulties in socialization and communication can make this an extremely demanding time for those with autism. Adolescents with autism change physically in ways similar to their peers, but the discrepancy between the complex social behavior of a typical adolescent and that of someone with autism may become quite large. The adolescent with autism may have a similar desire to have a girl or boyfriend but may be faced with difficulties in developing and maintaining these relationships. In some cases, the adolescent may be increasingly aware of their differences, which may result in increasing their anxiety or lead to bouts of depression. As well, adolescents with autism may not be adequately prepared for the physical and social changes that they will face thus, furthering the challenge for them to cope with adolescence (Collier & Schall, 2003; Ruble & Dalrymple, 1993).

Despite the challenges associated with adolescence, and the importance of this time for individuals to learn the necessary skills for success in adulthood, little has been written or presented on the needs of individuals with Autism during the transition period (Schall, in press). The purpose of this session is to report on the characteristics of autism in during adolescence and to provide workshop participants with the opportunity to explore emerging characteristics of quality programs for adolescents with ASD. Participants will apply that knowledge to specific cases that explore the transition needs of individual across the spectrum, including those who will need intensive support on a job site to those who expect to function relatively independently in a higher education setting.

Specific methods that the participants will explore include, person-centered planning, top-down curriculum design applied to the area of social skill development, intensive social skills training in preparation for work and higher education, and positive behavior supports to address unique behavioral challenges present during adolescence.

Learning Objectives for this Session: 1. Participants will discuss implications of findings about the higher than previously identified prevalence of autism spectrum disorders and its implications for high school and transition aged programs for individuals in special education programs.

2. Participants will identify the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders during adolescence, including changes in the presentation of the disorder, and general changes in the social, physical, and learning needs of adolescents with autism, Aspergers disorder, or PDD-NOS.

3. Participants will discuss the importance and advantages, and identify the characteristics of person-centered planning for youth with ASD in transition programs.

4. Using a given case study, participants will develop a proposed transition plan, and sample goals and objectives for an individual with autism who will transition to a job site, and an individual with Aspergers disorder who will transition to a higher education setting.

5. Participants will develop a matrix that demonstrates how to imbed social and communication skill teaching needs into the general middle and high school educational experiences of youth with ASD in school settings.

6. Participants will discuss specific teaching methodologies that are most successful in teaching communication and social skills in community based work and higher education environments.

7. Participants will discuss specific on-going modifications and support strategies that are required to assist the person with ASD during transition to work or higher education.

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