Ask a researcher – Teens in Transition

Woman and younger man at a computer

My son completed high school last year but was only recently been assessed with ASD. He has absolutely no idea what to do next. University does not seem an option. Any suggestions?


As a research centre and we do not generally give advice on services and support for individuals and families on the Autism Spectrum. However, we can give you some leads from the research literature to follow up, if appropriate.

First of all, there is quite a bit of research, which shows that these transition periods are very difficult for young people with ASD and your son is certainly not alone. Furthermore, as his family, you are in the good company of many other families who are in the same situation. Your son may be especially disadvantaged because he has only recently been diagnosed, so he hasn’t had the opportunity of support within the school system and in particular hasn’t taken part in any of the transition-planning activities. There is not much Australian research on this (although see further down), but a couple of reviews of research on transition services in the US may be helpful for you to read:

Transition from School to Adulthood for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders and

Transition from School to Adulthood for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder: What We Know and What We Need to Know

Research also shows that young people with ASD are at high risk of unemployment and not enrolling in further education. Current data suggest that up to 50% of adults with ASD are unemployed or underemployed. This is of course quite unacceptable as people with autism have many valuable skills, but it seems to be employers (and tertiary education facilities) do not recognize these skills, and/or do not know how to accommodate the special needs of employees (and students) with autism.

Here are some ideas where to find some advice:

1.Has he registered his disability with Centrelink? They can provide career counselling to help work out what he may want to do, and to get a job. (He needs a Centrelink number.)

2. Have you explored TAFE options with him? There are certificates for work readiness. TAFE advisors may be able to assist. In this context, you may want to explore a website which was developed by OTARC researchers to support students with ASD, their families and teachers in tertiary education: Supporting tertiary students with ASD.

3. Have you been in touch with the ASD support organisation in your state to see whether they can help? The contacts can be obtained from the OTARC website: Supporting tertiary students with ASD. Then click on ‘Autism organisations in your State or Territory’ under external links.

4. You could also seek help from a psychologist experienced in exploring career options and planning.

5. As we said before, there is still very little research in the employment area in Australia, but this is changing. Have a look on our website to see some of the many studies happening at OTARC. Your son could participate in the study listed at the bottom ‘Transition from school to adult life for young people with ASD and their families’. You never know, participating in research may help generating some ideas. See also our blog site for another study by the same researchers.

6. Also have a look at the “Dandelion Program”  on our website and their webpage. This is a special training and employment program for adults on the spectrum.

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