For many students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) higher education can be a reality. Success, however, is dependent upon proper transition planning. Difficulties with communication, socialization, and behavior can hinder an individual with ASD even if they are academically ready for the challenge that awaits any student entering college. To address these core areas of deficit, specific to ASD, educators and parents should be proactive thinking about and planning for the specific supports needed to successfully transition into higher education. According to Roberts (2010), a good place to start with regard to a comprehensive transition plan is to collect as much up-to-date information as possible on the student as a whole –not just psychological or clinical reports and scores on standardized tests. This information should contain the student’s personal goals and aspirations and individual strengths and should be reviewed and utilized as a starting point from which training, education, and supports are determined and provided to facilitate successful transition – academically and socially. By thinking of the support needs the student will require, and planning for those needs during mandated services under IDEA (2004), there is a greater likelihood of true postsecondary education success.
According to Roberts, a transition plan and IEP for a student wishing to explore postsecondary education venues should consider the following topic areas: Career exploration, academic goal setting and preparation, assessing and identifying learning styles, self-advocacy skills, reasonable accommodations, academic supports, interagency collaboration, technology, and time management skills. Pro-actively planning for and addressing these specific topic areas helps focus the IEP team to create goals that will be relevant for transition into an institution of higher learning. One of the primary differences between high school and postsecondary education is the change in the law related to individuals with disabilities. For students K-12, services and accommodations are provided based on the identified needs in the IEP, which is not the case for postsecondary education systems. To address this service gap, creative planning during the high school years is critical for students with ASD and other developmental disabilities who wish to pursue a higher education before entering the work world.