It’s Graduation Season! Do you Have a Transition Plan?

As high school graduates across the region prepare for the next phase of their education, one local special education transition expert explores best practices for parents of teens with autism during this period of growth and change

Contributor: Judi Brown, M. Ed., Director of Secondary Transition Education at The Bancroft School
Monday, June 9, 2016

Every year around this time, parents across South Jersey celebrate high school graduation in a big way. We spot them everywhere – at our favorite restaurants, celebrating an exciting new chapter; at Target, stocking up on extra-long sheet sets and shower caddies for college dorms, and even in our own homes, as we help our own children prepare for the next step toward adult independence. This is such an exciting time for families, chock-full of hard-earned accomplishments, exciting possibilities and hopes for the future.

But what about those parents of a child with autism, or other intellectual or developmental disabilities? What happens to the young adults with special needs who have relied on inclusive supports in general education school systems?  How well are they prepared, once they graduate, to enter a system of adult services? How quickly following graduation are these young adults served by adult service providers?

Fortunately for those students and their families who, together with their education team, have created a solid transition plan, the possibilities for success and independence post-diploma can be limitless.

As a Director of Secondary Transition Education at The Bancroft School, I have seen firsthand the incredible difference an appropriate transition plan can make in a young person’s future. I strongly encourage all parents with a child with autism to consider the following, well high school graduation:

  • Begin planning early. At The Bancroft School, we begin transition planning at age 14. Give your child and his or her educational team the years they need to individualize a solid transition plan, and make adjustments as a child’s interest areas evolve.
  • Prioritize job skills and socialization. As a child with special needs progresses in his or her education, it’s crucial to emphasize vocational training. At The Bancroft School, we begin pre-vocational skills in elementary school and work hand-in-hand with parents as a child’s skillset comes to life.
  • Seek experiential learning opportunities. Internships and real-world learning environments can be the key to a student’s independence in adulthood. If your child’s school does not offer internship or vocational opportunities for students with special needs, seek them out independently and work closely with your child to identify which roles and duties he or she truly enjoys.

As your child prepares to graduate, remember to focus on developing the highest skill level he or she can achieve successfully, with independence.  And, a comprehensive transition plan within a student’s IEP (individualized education plan) can ensure your child is ready for a successful adult life. Depending on a child’s needs, he or she may benefit from community vocational training and placement or even transfer to an appropriate community college program.

Navigating the world of adult services after high school can be challenging, but armed with the right information and a solid transition plan, families and a child’s school team can lay the groundwork for a bright, independent future.

In the meantime, enjoy this exciting time and celebrate your child’s tremendous accomplishments during this spring graduation season!


At The Bancroft School in Haddonfield, N.J., students ages 3 through 21 have access to early transition planning, pre-vocational and vocational training and internship opportunities, all before they prepare to enter the system of adult services for individuals with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities.

For more information about transition planning and to inquire about enrollment at The Bancroft School and other programs, dial 1-800-774-5516 or visit

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