Transitions: Disappointment brings value/ Parents own Transition

| July 21, 2013

Steven studying

Steven studying

Everything I write about is my opinion and based on lots of interaction with other parents/specialists.  I have been very active in this community and wanted to share with others what I have learned as many parents have reached out to me for advice. Again you need to thoughtfully consider what I outline as you know your son/daughter.  I am strongly urging you to start your own transition and consider this as you read what I write. Transition is as much for the parent as for the your adolescent.

Kris, Corey, Ross, and Phoebe - Transition!

Kris, Corey, Ross, and Phoebe – Transition!

I wanted to respond to a few questions I received following my last blog. Districts can put pressure on families sometimes to select a track:  diploma or services.  I have a friend who was asked to make this decision in middle school.  Sometimes you know but many times there is still so much growth going on that you want to be sure you do not box your child so that there are not options when you get to high school. If the student can handle the academics then you should work towards a diploma at least the first year of high school as will be an indication of what they can handle.  You can clearly also word this in an IEP under comments.  If you are considering a diploma you should also transition your son/ daughter to some type of regular high school if you really are preparing them for college or even independent employment. This is more real world and will force them to integrate into situations that will prepare them post high school.  This may not always be the case but something you should seriously evaluate. This all goes to what you are considering post high school.  This may not be until the junior year when you have a better sense of what type of learning and social environment they can tolerate.  If they still need a lot of support in later high school years then services may be more appropriate.

This leads me to the topic I want to talk about today.  As parents we want to protect and shield our kids from disappointment. Truthfully though we all face disappointment and so better to expose our kids to this when we can be around to help them navigate and also just appreciate that all part of life.  This is particularly true as we want to transition them to more independence.   We have to let them do things that we may not know whether they can manage but know that a critical skill that may be needed for independence.   We can also be strategic with how we introduce them to new skills and situations. More often than not we do not want to do this as we do not want them to fail. Failure is only negative if there is no learning going on and if there is no understanding of how to move forward. What I am speaking to is true for all kids not just those with special needs. As parents though we just tend to shield and protect our kids with special needs more.

Working on his own

Working on his own

My son wants to do more on his own. He is doing things and not always successfully.  He now phones in his medication refill to the pharmacy. The first couple times we did together.  He then did on his own and pressed the wrong numbers. He got frustrated but he also learned that not a big deal and is now doing correctly. When attempting to take a bus to Autistry he was tasked with figuring out the schedule and route. He got confused and did not understand that there was a to and from route. He showed up at the wrong time and again got a little frustrated but worked through this and the next day got the right location and departure time.  He also learned a lot about bus schedules. These may not seem significant risks but they were situations he needed to manage on his own and was not successful at first. When my son worked for me several summers ago I gained a lot of insight.  His first day of work I had a meeting. I was worried as he was on his own but created very structured schedule and told him to ask my assistant if he had any questions.  I did not want to go to my meeting as my son had never been left alone in a work situation. My meeting ended up being 2 hours long and when I got back to his desk he had not only completed the work I had given him but had sought out my assistant when he needed help, identified a few problems that had never been brought to my attention and even had limited his break to 15 minutes on the computer accessing the internet.  He was successful but it took everything in me to walk away and go to my meeting.

As we move our kids toward employment there will be skills that will be a challenge and we need to be sure that if they are not always successful initially at a task that they are able to manage their frustrations and approach in a different way.

C and I are through 3 weeks of the employment program at Autistry.  They had to understand how to complete a W9, importance of personal identification for employment. They both need to complete timecards to record hours and then deposit their paycheck into checking account. Both C& I are learning team work and together successfully built a trailer which will be needed to transport wood for a shed that they are just starting to put together.  They are focused and respectful to each other and Dan. They are learning how to take direction and constructive feedback from their boss Dan. These are skills many young college graduates struggle with, taking direction and being open to feedback for improvement.


Transitions: Diploma and Services

| July 10, 2013


Alex and Jack working on college homework

I appreciate the feedback from my first blog. I really hope that others will post comments so that this can be interactive. Please share your experiences as we can all learn from each other. Ask questions too. This is probably the most difficult transition as there are a lot of decisions and choices but resources and options can be more limited. There continues to be a lot of focus on early intervention and while I have read a lot of articles about the need for services and support as our kids’ transition out of high school, I have not found many practical options.  Janet and Dan are truly visionary and in my experience parents are the ones that have to create the opportunities.


Working on the trailer

I did touch briefly on the topic of diploma vs. certificate of completion and services. A diploma just terminates the school district’s responsibility but there are many students who get a diploma and then can access Golden Gate Regional Center Services if they have qualified or perhaps another agency depending on diagnosis.  I believe the most important factor in this decision is really about goals and expectations post high school.  The transition IEP and planning should really start at age 16 if not sooner. Very important that you have an awareness of not just cognitive functioning but level of independence. I really encourage you to also seek out employment opportunities or non paid internships while your adolescent is in high school so you can evaluate level of independence and what type of support if any will be needed.   Determine your son/daughter’s interest and seek out an opportunity. I found an internship for my son at a local record/CD store as he knows a lot about music. The owner was a friend of a friend and at first was not sure but now 2 years later really appreciates our son.  C also worked for my company which although was not optimal was a great way for me to assess his skills and determine structure for him to be successful.  C worked very hard and was a lot more independent then I thought he would be and got along with everyone.  My staff asked for him to come back the next summer. I chose instead to have him participate in Autistry Employment Program which is much better for C to gain his own independence.  He and Ian have completed building a trailer and are now working on a shed commissioned by a customer.  I will share more in my next blog on the critical employment skills being developed there.

The most important take away for you when evaluating a diploma is really just to be sure you have an appropriate plan after high school.  If they are no longer eligible for services after high school can they attend a community college or any university on their own? Or can you afford to privately pay for some of the programs that are out there to help our kids’ transition? Golden Gate Regional Services will assist with some of these programs if the school district is no longer providing services.


Noah air nails his parcour vaulting horse.

I have talked to too many parents who are not looking beyond graduation from high school as working so hard to help son/daughter earn the diploma.  I am really encouraging you to have a balanced look at your son/daughter’s overall skill and what will be needed post high school to continue to develop and be successful.   A diploma is great and a worthy goal if it makes sense for the student.  Be sure you are working with your school district on an appropriate transition IEP. You need to be strategic with your future planning.


Autistry Newsletter – July 5, 2013

| July 5, 2013

donateIt’s a hot July and the creativity at Autistry is sizzling. We are busy with new student projects and new Autistry programs.

We are over halfway to meeting the Summer 2:1 donation challenge to raise $10,000. When we raise the $10k we will receive an additional $20,000 from a very generous foundation. That $30,000 will go toward the Autistry Opportunity Fund which supports sliding scale fees and toward the new Autistry Model Employment Program. To donate on line go to the Donate Page or, send a check to Autistry Studios, 37 Duffy Place, San Rafael, CA 94925.

Sarah HorowitzAutistry News: We are very happy to announce that Sarah Horowitz is joining us as Autistry’s first Director of Development. Sarah will work closely with Janet, Dan, and the Autistry board to develop and execute our fundraising efforts as well as coordinating media coverage. Sarah has worked for several years with Matrix Parent Network as their media and publications coordinator. She is a skilled graphic designer and she also knows a lot about trains!

JanetMillerJanet Miller, Autistry Board member and longtime autism community leader has launched the first weekly Autistry Blog: Transitions. Janet M. will be writing on topics relating to the many transitions from youth to adulthood: leaving home, diploma vs certificate, employment, housing, SSI, and many other issues that affect the lives of families with ASD children.

SaraGAnd we are delighted to announce that Sara Gardner has received her MS in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University. Sara will be continuing at Autistry as an MFT-Intern working under Janet’s supervision (MFT#44746). She will help facilitate several Core Workshops and meet with clients for 1:1 counseling. Sara’s strong background in ASD issues makes her a very important part of the Autistry Team.

Dayna with cookieNew faces at Autistry: Well, Dayna has actually been with us for awhile! Dayna Camden was our first high school intern and is now on staff as an Autistry Mentor. She is a wonderful addition – patient, funny, and she creates a strong peer relationship with the Autistry students. She is a student at Redwood High School and when she graduates in 2014 Dayna would like to go to UC Davis to study psychology. And, we hope she will continue to work with ASD individuals.

DAnnyWDanny Waite is our second high school intern. Danny goes to San Rafael High and isn’t quite sure where he will go on to college when he graduates in 2014. Danny works on Saturdays and the lessons he learned in his SRHS wood shop classes are coming in very handy.

CITWe are in the early planning stages for the fall Autistry Faire. This year we will be teaming up with the amazing artists of the Cardboard Institute of Technology. They create stunning works of art from this most mundane of materials. So, get out your cardboard and your box knifes – this is going to be a fabulous event!