Who's Ready?: Predictors of Transition Planning for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Thursday, May 15, 2014
Atrium Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Atlanta)
J. Rankin, M. Tudor and M. D. Lerner, Department of Psychology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY
Background: Transition Plans (TPs) are intended to help prepare adolescents with disabilities acquire specific skills that will aide them after high school. Despite the legal mandate for these services, as part of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2004), many youth may not have TPs. Extensive literature shows that adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) tend to experience generally poor or limited outcomes after high school (e.g., Taylor & Seltzer, 2011), with higher functioning adolescents showing the starkest drop in improvements (e.g., Taylor & Seltzer, 2010); lack of TPs may be one reason for these poor outcomes. Various factors have been proposed as related to TPs and outcomes for adolescents with ASD, including characteristics of the adolescent, the severity of their symptoms, and parenting factors (Hendricks & Wehman, 2009).  Examination of how such factors may predict the presence or absence of TPs, furthering the understanding of who may have TPs and who may not.

Objectives: The current study aims to identify a set of factors that may predict: 1) presence of Transition Assessments in the IEP, 2) presence of Transition Goals in the IEP, and 3) the presence of Transition-focused courses/services included in IEP. The following potential predictors will be examined: severity of ASD symptoms, age and gender, as well as parenting self-efficacy of their parents.

Methods:   The parents of 26 adolescents with ASD (19 male; age range 11-22, M = 15.5, SD = 2.8) from a rural, underserved region, completed questionnaires prior to participation in a transition training group. Parents filled out a post-secondary transition checklist for families, the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) as a measure of ASD symptom severity, and the Parenting Self-Efficacy Scale (PSES) as a measure of parent self-efficacy. Three logistic regressions were conducted to test the impact of ASD severity, parental self-efficacy, and age on transition outcomes.

Results:   In this sample, approximately half of the adolescents had TPs in their IEPs. Results indicated that older age predicted the presence of Transition Assessments (p = .04) and presence of Transition Services/Courses present in adolescents IEPs (p = .04). Lower PSES scores also predicted the presence of Transition Assessments on the IEP (p = .01). Gender and ASD symptom severity were not evinced as significant predictors of any TP factors.

Conclusions:   Results of this study indicate that age is a prominent predictor of the presence of Transition Assessments and Goals in the IEP of youth with ASD. This suggests a potentially problematic pattern in TPs for youth with ASD, wherein TPs become an IEP focus only when graduation is imminent, rather than based on individualized needs. Existing literature suggests that outcomes may be considerably better for youth with early TPs (e.g., Cobb & Alwell, 2009). Further, lower parenting self-efficacy predicted the presence of Transition Assessments, suggesting that parents with lower parenting self-efficacy are more inclined to seek out TPs through the school system.

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