Read step-by-step advice for parents and carers, and for young people, on what to consider when planning the transition from school to adult life. Learn what options may be available and what kind of questions to ask in order to make sure you're fully informed. Read about the procedures involved in transitioning from school in England, WalesScotland and Northern Ireland.

Making transition decisions as a parent or carer

Making decisions about what happens after school can be daunting. The earlier you begin thinking about this, the more time you have to discuss it with your child. It's important that professionals keep you and your child involved and that your child's opinions are listened to.

Your child should be at the centre of any transition planning, this is known as person-centred planning.

As a parent or carer, having the right information can help you to support them to consider and explore options for their future. Starting the transition process early means there is plenty of time for their choices to be explored and decisions to be made, and changed if necessary. 

Some autistic young people may need the decision making process demonstrated in a way that meets their communication needs, parents should be able to advise on this and advocate on their child's behalf.

Young people who are due to leave school should be involved in transition planning from as early as Year 9 in England and Wales, Year 10 in Northern Ireland and at least twelve months before the young person is due to leave school in Scotland

There may be different options and destinations available, such as:

A young autistic man wearing a hat looks at the camera

Advocating for your child

Whilst your child must be at the centre of the decision making process, there will be times when you will need to advocate for them. This may be at an annual review or other meeting, when communicating generally with schools and/or further or higher education settings and during visits to service providers.

Here are some things that can help:

  • Ensure that procedures around annual review meetings in EnglandWales and Northern Ireland are followed. 
  • Have a thorough understanding of what strategies are being used with your child and that these are shared with staff that will be working with them in the future. 
  • Make sure that any sensory needs that your child may have are considered by their new education or residential setting and that the environment is adapted accordingly.
  • With your child, create a personal communication passport.  

What support is available?

You and your child may be entitled to financial support, community care services from your local authority or trust, and other support such as Blue Badges, bus passes and home adaptations. 

Choosing a residential or supported living service

Once you know what sort of provision you are looking for, and the options that are available, it is time to start making a decision. There will be lots of things to consider and questions to ask.

What is the service's knowledge around autism?

Behaviour support

  • What approach is used (hands on/hands off)?
  • What experience do the staff have in supporting people with challenging behaviour?
  • Do they have the support of a behaviour support team (psychiatrist/clinical psychologists/behaviour consultants)?
  • How is behaviour recorded and what feedback can you expect?
  • Are behaviour/support plans actively used?

Promotion of independence and self-esteem

  • How is independence promoted and encouraged?
  • Is it done in a person-centred way?
  • Can they provide activities that will appeal to your young person?
  • How will they be involved in the community?

Staff

  • Do they take the time to match the young person with a support worker that can meet their needs in terms of personality, skills and interests?
  • Have staff had any training in other common conditions such as epilepsy or mental health difficulties?
  • What is their approach to collaboration with parents?
  • Does the service record compliments and complaints? Can you see them?
  • Observe how staff interact with the people they support.

Other people using the service

  • What opportunities will your child have for mixing with others?
  • How will your young person get on with the other people living there?
  • How do they promote a positive group living situation?
  • How are conflicts resolved?

Education and training options

If staying on in education or looking for employment, there will be a number of options available.

  • Further education at college or sixth form gives your child the opportunity to study for a number of vocational, professional and academic qualifications. Websites that offer information on further education and training in ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland can help. In England, your local authority's Local Offer sets out information about provision they expect to be available for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) living in their area.
  • Higher education is study at degree level or above. UCAS offers advice on how to choose a higher education course.
  • Online education provides an opportunity for furthering qualifications without having to attend a school, college or university. This may overcome some of the social barriers young people face when transitioning from school.
  • Traineeships offer a mixture of education and training, designed to equip people with experience and skills ready for employment.
  • Apprenticeships offer paid, on-the-job training in a particular skill or profession.
  • Supported internships are structured study programmes based primarily at an employer for those living in England.

If your child has an education, health and care plan in England, co-ordinated support plan in Scotland, or statement of special educational needs in Wales and Northern Ireland, you may wish to contact our Education Rights Service for advice on how the plan may be affected by these options.

Choosing a placement

Try to visit as many different establishments as possible. This will give a better idea of what is available and which features you and your child think are important. You may find that a particular placement you wouldn't have considered may be right as you like its environment and ethos.

Decide exactly what you need to know in advance and take a list of questions. Wherever possible, ensure that your child is central to the decision-making.

Employment support

Many employers are committed to creating opportunities for people with disabilities but are unaware of the specific needs of autistic employees. Our workplace support service provides non-managerial support, advice and guidance for autistic employees and their employers.

Developing skills for adulthood

You may also wish to explore what skills and support your child may need to help them make a successful transition to adult life. These can include:

Read about the procedures involved in transitioning from school in England, WalesScotland and Northern Ireland.

What to do if you are also autistic

If you are autistic, it would be helpful to explain this to the professionals involved at the earliest opportunity.

You can request that they make reasonable adjustments to help you such as:

  • giving you information in different formats
  • providing a quiet area for you to wait before meetings
  • allowing you to record meetings. 

 

Student and teacher chat on a sofa

Making transition decisions as a young person

You and your family may not know what you want to do when you leave school, and that's okay. Start to think about it early, when you are 14 years old. This will mean that you have time to consider your options and visit different places, so you can make an informed decision.

Step 1 – Planning

What does 'transition' mean?

The transition to adulthood means becoming an adult. Planning for this involves looking at what you might like to do when you leave school. Further planning will include looking at where you might live when you are an adult.

Who will make the decisions?

You have the right to make decisions about your future, but you might find support from your family and school helpful.

When will I have to start planning for this?

This depends on where you live. Your family and school will support you to start thinking about this in Year 9 if you live in England or Wales and year ten if you live in Northern Ireland. If you live in Scotland, planning will start at least twelve months before you are due to leave school. 

Why start at these times?

So that you have plenty of time to think and plan for your future and what you want to do, and to change your mind about things.

Deciding between applying for a job or staying in education

This can be a difficult decision and you might want to discuss this with your family, friends or teachers.

College or sixth form gives you the chance to study for a number of vocational, professional and academic qualifications. Going to university means that you can study at degree level or above. There are other options, such as traineeshipsapprenticeships and supported internships.

If you decide to look for a job, then think about your strengths and what interests you. You may find a specialist service such as Remploy can help you to develop your workplace skills and find suitable paid employment.

How much help and support will I get as an adult?

How much support you get will depend on what you want and need. It is important to find out what benefits and care you might be entitled to, and to learn about managing money.

If you think you will need lots of support, you might want to consider:

  • residential – living in a shared house where you get support all day and night
  • supported living – living on your own but with support from people who come to your house to help you.

Some people prefer a balance between receiving support and the chance to live independently. For this you might consider:

  • support centres – a place away from where you live, where you can go in the daytime during the week to do different activities. The activities available will depend on what they can offer and what you are interested in. You will go back home at the end of the day. 
  • one-to-one support – that will help you to do activities outside of your home. Someone might come to meet you at your home, or at an arranged place and then go along with you to do something you need to do or are interested in. This could be something like doing your shopping, going to an art class, bowling, or going to the cinema.

If you plan to live independently, but need a little bit of help, you might like to consider these options:

  • buddy/befriending service – this means being matched with someone you can talk to and do things with, like going to the cinema or the shops. The person you are paired up with is usually a volunteer who has had training to become a buddy.
  • social groups – these give you a chance to meet other people and join in organised social activities. Some groups meet in the day whilst others meet in the evenings. It's a good idea to contact the group to find out where and when they meet and get an idea of what activities they do.

Find services and social opportunities in our Autism Services Directory.  

Young man at the computer with helper leaning over his shoulder

Step 2 – Looking at what is available

Once you have decided how much support you would like and what you might like to do, it is time to look at what is available. You might find making a list of your options helpful. Prepare a list of questions that you can ask about each option. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Can I do what I am interested in whilst going there?
  • Will I get to make new friends?
  • How can I stay in touch with my family and friends whilst I am there?
  • Who will be helping me?
  • How will the people supporting me get to know me and what I like?
  • What will I do when I am there?
  • What if I am not happy there?

Step 3 – Making a decision

To help make your decision, visit some of the places on your list. While you are there, record your thoughts. Here are some ways you can do that: 

  • take some photos to help you remember what it looked like (ask permission first)
  • tell someone what you think and which ones are your favourite
  • voice record what you think of each place whilst you are there (you could use a mobile phone to do this)
  • rate each option that you visit:
    • Green = GREAT
    • Orange = OK
    • Red = RUBBISH

It might also be helpful to talk to people who already use the service, school or college. Writing out questions you could ask will help you prepare for this. Some questions you could ask are:

  • What do you like about it?
  • What don’t you like about it?
  • Do you feel you have enough independence?
  • What did you do today?
  • What are the staff like?
  • What are the other people like?

Further help from our charity

Read about the procedures involved in transitioning from school in England, WalesScotland and Northern Ireland.

Our Transitions Support Service can offer support to families to help them secure a successful transition into further education or adult life.

Our Autism Services Directory can help you find what is available in your area.

Education and transitions

Resources

Funding higher education for disabled students 2017/18

Funding further education for disabled students

Applying for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs)

Adjustments for disabled students

Telling people you’re disabled: clear and easy guide for students

Last reviewed: 22 August 2016.