Transition from college or university can be daunting, difficult and confusing. The decisions made can have an impact on the rest of our lives.

Find out about who should be involved in the decisions, person-centred planning, what happens to education health and care plans, what the options are, making the transition, benefits and community care.

Who should be involved?

It’s important that autistic students and their families are engaged in the planning early to make sure decisions are informed and that support is appropriate.

A successful transition will involve everyone in the student’s circle of support, eg their family, support or outreach workers, lecturers.

All colleges and universities should provide careers and employment guidance and can signpost to other services.

Person-centred planning

Planning should be person-centred, focusing on what the student wants for their future and what matters to them.

Many autistic people have intense and highly-focused interests. Some can channel their interest into studying, paid work, volunteering, or other meaningful occupation. Autistic people often report that the pursuit of such interests is fundamental to their wellbeing and happiness.

They may already have an ideal career path in mind, or a dream to live in a particular place. Their ideas should be taken seriously so that specific goals that are positive and possible can be identified.

Once someone reaches adulthood, their parents or others who have cared for them as children are no longer entitled to make decisions on their behalf.

If it is felt that they don’t have the capacity to make their own choices, families and professionals should look at creative ways to advocate their preference. This may include using visual supports, assessing and recording their reaction as evidence. How a person communicates should not be a barrier to them contributing to their transition. Any planning should allow for them to contribute in the way that is most meaningful to them.

Parents may find it useful to visit the My Adult- Still My Child website. This is aimed at those new to making Best Interest Decisions and especially those caring for a young person in transition to adult life.

student speaks to adviser

College students with EHC plans (England)

If the student reaches their 25th birthday before the course has ended, the Education Health Care Plan (EHC plan) can be maintained until the end of the academic year. But it will cease when the student leaves college. It is important that this is planned carefully, to help encourage a smooth transition and effective preparation for adulthood.

If the student is moving to adult health services, the local authority and health services must co-operate, working in partnership with each other and the student to ensure that the planned adult care is consistent with the EHC plan.

If aged 18 or over and already using adult services, the local authority should ensure that adult services are involved in and made aware of the decision to cease the EHC plan. If the care part of an EHC plan is provided by adult services, the Care Plan will remain in place when the education elements of the EHC plan end. Re-assessment may not be necessary at this point, however the local authority should review the adult care and support provision due to the significant change in circumstances.

The options

The options include further study, looking for a job or apprenticeship, volunteering, opportunities and support in the community, moving out of the parental home.

Careers services in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland can give advice on making decisions on learning, training and work opportunities.

Further study

Course and accommodation choices should be considered carefully.

Useful information can be found on university websites, at Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) or at Which? University. Find out more about what to consider when planning to go to university

For advice on further and higher education rights and entitlements, contact Disability Rights UK’s Disabled Student Helpline (England and Wales), Disability Action (Northern Ireland), or Lead Scotland.

Jobs and apprenticeships

Find out about the world of work for autistic people, traineeships and apprenticeships. For students in England with EHC plans, there are supported internships. There are often local projects supporting people into employment, and our Autism Services Directory lists employment support services.

Careers services in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland should be able to offer advice or signpost to services that can help with preparing for and getting work, such as Prince’s Trust and Remploy.


Volunteering, or engaging with community groups and hobbies, can build valuable skills for daily life or future employment, and support general wellbeing. Find volunteering opportunities with our charity, and on the Do it website.

student and adviser sit together

Making the transition

Thought should be given to how they can be supported to reduce anxiety throughout the process. Early decision making and support strategies can help the student to prepare for the change. This may include:

  • new support staff working with them prior to the move
  • visiting their new home, day hub or training centre to meet staff and peers
  • using social stories™ or visual supports.

Benefits and community care

Autistic students and their families may be entitled to financial support and social care support.

The amount of support will depend on personal circumstances. For example, a young autistic adult may be able to care for themselves independently or it is possible that families and/or others will continue to care for them. Read more about support options

Further help from our charity

We offer a range of personalised support services for autistic people and their families.

Find services and support across the UK in our Autism Services Directory.

Talk to other autistic people and their families in our online community.

Find out about advocacy and self-advocacy, mental health, and other aspects of adult life.

Last reviewed 22 August 2016