In The Politics of Autism, I write:
When disabled people reach their 22d birthday, they no longer qualify for services under IDEA. ... People in the disability community refer to this point in life as “the cliff.” Once autistic people go over the cliff, they have a hard time getting services such as job placement, vocational training, and assistive technology. IDEA entitles students to transition planning services during high school, but afterwards, they have to apply as adults and establish eligibility for state and federal help. One study found that 39 percent of young autistic adults received no service at all, and most of the rest got severely limited services.
Students with ASD have some of the worst postsecondary outcomes when compared to other students with disabilities indicating transition planning may not be working effectively. One source of support for postsecondary planning is development of the transition Individualized Education Program (IEP). However, little research is available to describe the current contents of transition IEPs for students with ASD. This study aimed to describe IEP and postsecondary planning quality for students with autism in their final year of high school.
IEPs for 20 students with autism (Mage = 18.2 years; SD = 1.1) from two mid-southern states were analyzed. Descriptive analyses were used to identify strengths and weaknesses of IEPs and postsecondary goals based on federal law requirements and best practice recommendations.
IEPs contained an average of 3.1 IEP goals and 1.6 postsecondary goals. IEP goals were most frequently related to academic, learning/work, or communication skills. All IEPs contained an employment postsecondary goal while less than half of the IEPs included an independent living postsecondary goal. Key findings include lack of goals related to social skills and the lack of alignment between present levels of performance, IEP goals, and postsecondary goals.
IEPs for students with ASD in their final year of school do not consistently meet standards outlined by federal law or best practice recommendations necessary for successful transition from high school.