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  • Julie Cook Sowash

Transitioning Together

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People with Autism are confronted with challenges when leaving the educational system. These young men and women face an unemployment rate of 90%. Planning for life after school for students and their families is a challenge that many are unprepared to address. As a response to this challenge, in 2000, the University of Wisconsin’s Waisman Center started a program called Working Together. Working Together provides an 8-week educational program to students on the Autism Spectrum and their families to better prepare them for the future. The initiative caught the eye of University of Wisconsin alum Tom Fanning, CEO of Ability Beyond, and a partnership began with the Waisman Center and multiple Ability Beyond professionals who were trained as facilitators in order to implement the Transitioning Together program as a pilot in New York State. The Transitioning Together program was launched and piloted with educators, students, and their families at Brewster High School in Brewster, New York in the Fall of 2015. Eight young men participated in and successfully completed the 8-week program. The curriculum consisted of a wide range of topics from transition planning to community involvement. Both parents and students were happy with the experience and the students especially loved the availability of technology provided during the program. The program will now expand this spring to Danbury High School in Connecticut. While Transitioning Together does not offer employment services, it does point students and families to the agencies that do provide these services. The program focuses on increasing awareness and expanding employment preparation, empowering the students and their families to successfully plan prior to graduation for life after high school. While students with Autism receive assistance and support from the school system, there remains a question of what happens when they age out from the education system. Working Together and Transitioning Together are a great start, but are just part of the answer. Now we, as a community, can be involved and take part helping this emerging workforce, our next generation, successfully move into the next phase of their lives.

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