Making the Transition to Adulthood: Considerations for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

transitioning to adulthood


Making the Transition to Adulthood: Considerations for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

Transitioning to adulthood can be difficult for any young person, but for those on the autism spectrum, the challenges can be even greater.  There are many things to consider, and many services available to help make the process a little bit easier.  For many young people with autism, the transition from childhood to adulthood is a daunting and unfamiliar process. 


Autism spectrum disorder can be described as a “spectrum” because the symptoms and characteristics of autism vary widely from individual to individual. Based on current research, it is believed that individuals with autism spectrum disorder have difficulty with social communication, interaction, and flexible thinking. They may also have restricted or repetitive interests and behaviors. 


Transitioning into adulthood can be difficult for anyone, but for those on the autism spectrum, it can be especially challenging and often overwhelming to navigate on one’s own. There are a number of obstacles that can get in the way of a successful transition, including:


  1. Developing an understanding of social norms and expectations
  2. Figuring out what career path to pursue
  3. Learning how to live independently
  4. Navigating the complex social landscape
  5. Dealing with the challenges of mental health and anxiety/depression
  6. Adjusting to a new family dynamic
  7. Handling changes in relationships with peers and mentors
  8. Coping with increased self-awareness and scrutiny


According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, difficulties in the transition to adulthood are common among people with ASD.  The study found that, among people with ASD: Only 15% were employed full-time. Just 26% were enrolled in postsecondary education. Less than half (45%) lived independently. Only 34% reported good or excellent mental health. 

These difficulties can be caused by a variety of factors, including lack of social support, inaccessible education and employment opportunities, and inadequate mental health care. 


With the right tools and support, however, it can also be an exciting time of growth and independence.  There are many programs, therapies, and resources available to help young adults with autism transition into successful, productive adults.  More specifically, transition planning is a useful tool for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to utilize in preparation for lifestyle changes. 


Transition planning for individuals on the autism spectrum is a process that helps them to be as prepared as possible for any change in their life, big or small. This includes changes in routine, moving to a new home, starting a new job, or anything else that might be new or different for them.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to transition planning, as every person with autism is unique and will have different needs. However, there are some general steps that can be taken to help ensure a smooth transition. 


The goal of transition planning is to make sure that the person with ASD is ready for the change and has what he or she needs to be successful. This may include things like help learning new skills, support from teachers or therapists, or assistance with transportation or housing. Transition planning starts early and continues throughout the person’s life. 


One of the most difficult aspects of transitioning to adulthood, for instance, is finding a job. This is particularly challenging for individuals with ASD, who often struggle with social communication and sensory overload. As a result, many adults with ASD end up unemployed or underemployed.  


Through transition planning, individuals can plan ahead for upcoming job applications and interviews by considering the necessary skill sets needed.  In order to be successful in the job hunt, for example, it is important to understand one’s own individual strengths and weaknesses. It is important to know what we are each individually skilled in and what we each find difficult.  Through this self-assessment process, we can then better target jobs that play to our own strengths.


When creating a transition plan, it’s important to look at the big picture and consider all the changes that will be taking place. This includes both major changes, such as starting a new job or moving to a new home, and smaller changes, such as changing schools or getting a new haircut. It’s important to consider both the positive and negative aspects of each change, and how they will impact your loved one on the autism spectrum. 

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