Empowerment relates to making decisions that impact all aspects of our lives. It is about acquiring skills to become more self-sufficient, obtain resources, solve problems, and make decisions about actions we deem important for ourselves (Moran et al., 2017). For individuals with ASD, there is often a lack of empowerment and reliance on others for decision-making in education, home, employment, and community settings.
A Drexel University study by Roux et al. (2017) of over 3,200 individuals with ASD, 53 percent had a full or part-time guardian; 43 percent chose their own daily schedule; 60 percent indicated having their home chosen for them, most living with a parent or relative; 14 percent had paid employment in the community; and 74 percent had never participated in structured self-advocacy programs. These statistics speak to the need for empowering students for greater independence and quality of life. In secondary transition for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), student empowerment is critical and can be learned and demonstrated in a number of ways.
Key elements for empowerment include supported decision making; high expectations being maintained by parents, professionals, and the student for themselves; making informed choice, person-centered planning; and social-emotional learning (Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, 2020).
Big ideas for empowering students:
- Students engaged in supported decision-making are proactive in making choices about their own lives and futures, including guardianship and alternatives, learning self-determination skills including self-advocacy, and have an increased likelihood of reaching greater independence into adulthood (Demer, 2018; Hummerstone & Parsons, 2021).
- Students whose families and educators maintain high expectations, regardless of the complexity of the disability, have improved post-high school outcomes, including employment (Carter, 2014).
- Students who learn the skills to make informed choices about their education, health care, employment, and daily living are more likely to have increased independence in making decisions as adults (Lei et al, 2020).
- Students involved in person-centered planning (PCP) specific to their interests, strengths, skills, and needs leads to greater autonomy and more positive outcomes after high school (Covington et al., 2021; NTACT, 2019).
- Students who are taught social-emotional skills have improved social awareness, ability to take perspectives, initiate social interactions, self-regulate, and gain important interpersonal skills for greater lifelong success across contexts (Ratcliff et al. 2014; Sofronoff, Silva, & Beaumont, 2017).
This component will present content and activities to help further define what empowering students means related to transition planning. Resources and learning opportunities will be available for the content areas of supported decision making, high expectations, informed choices, person-centered planning, and social and emotional skills. Options will include downloadable material; online curriculums and resources; video presentations; and webinars related to the content area. Each component area also includes resources that may be most useful to families.
Intended audience: Educators working with students in transition planning, vocational rehabilitation counselors, families, and others interested in learning more in this key component area.