An important part of community integration is the issue of transportation. In order to be able to gain more independence and greater access to the community, travel training is very important. Travel training is available to individuals with disabilities and can be part of the transition IEP.
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities’ (NICHCY) Transition Summary has a section devoted to Travel Training for Youth with Disabilities:
Many families are not aware that their son or daughter is entitled to travel training. It is a proactive tool that will play a big role in establishing more independence for your adolescent. Some individuals with autism may be quite savvy about reading maps, but they may have no idea how to ask how much a ticket costs. A travel coach will help your adolescent by addressing his or her needs at whatever pace is required. In many states, the travel training will be offered to your son or daughter until he or she is comfortable.
Several states have implemented travel training programs. Please check the Autism Speaks resource guide for the contact information of state agencies. See if there is a specific travel training program in your state. AutismSpeaks.org/community/resources
Safety is a very real concern for all parents, but especially parents of children and adolescent with autism. Your adolescent may be seeking more independence and as a parent, you would like to foster this growth. But you may
also be concerned about the many risks associated with your adolescent being out in the world. It is important that safety is taught to adolescents with autism as part of the skills that they will need to enhance their independence. Some skills to consider:
-Identifying community members that can offer assistance.
-Knowing what to do when he or she gets lost.
-The ability to communicate name, address, phone number and emergency contact person. This should be either verbal or the adolescent should be taught to provide a card with this information to community helpers.
-The ability to use a cell phone. In the resource section of this kit if information on teaching this skill. For those with limited verbal skills text messaging may be an alternative means of communication in an emergency:
-Ability to identify public versus private spaces.
You may also want to consider the suggestions of autism safety expert Dennis Debbaudt:
Learning to recognize that men and women in uniform are people you can go to and stay with during an emergency is a lesson we all learn. Individuals with autism may only be able to learn these lessons if we teach these safety skills at home, reinforce them at school, and practice them in the community. You may want to make building safety skills a part of your daily routine. Safety skills are learned best when they are delivered early and often, and are suited to a child or adult’s age and ability levels.
You may also want to plan cross-educational opportunities for students with autism and law enforcement professionals. Be sure to provide them in a safe, non-threatening environment.
Building Skills for Children and Less Independent Adults
You may want to form partnerships with teachers and law enforcement professionals to develop a simple curriculum that helps expand the skills that will enhance the safety of young adults with autism in the community, and help them build personal resilience to risk.
Formally or informally, invite a variety of law enforcement officers and other safety professionals to sit among, not stand in front of, the students. The session should be designed to last about ten minutes, be delivered as frequently as possible, and by as many different officers as possible. Rotation of officers reinforces the message to students that police officers can and will look and sound differently. Rotation also makes safety skills easier to generalize for the student, and will allow more officers to participate without generating extraordinary time constraints for one particular officer. Officers can be asked to speak in their own words about the life skill that is being taught at the time.
Additional Skills to Build:
1. Recognize and respond to law enforcement officers, their uniforms, badges and vehicles.
2. Stay with—do not run from— safe “go to” police officers or other uniformed first responders.
3. Keep an appropriate distance when interacting with a law enforcement officer—or anyone else.
4. Avoid making sudden movements, i.e. putting hands into pockets.
5. Carry and safely show an ID card.
6. Disclose your autism, carry and safely show an autism information card.
7. Recognize inappropriate touching or sexual come-ons directed at them.
8. Effectively report bullying or other incidents.
9. Tell someone you need help, or use the phone to request it.
In addition, officers can participate in mock interviews, for example, by asking the student what his or her name is, and if he or she has an ID card. With permission from all involved, consider videotaping the visits, and using the videotape later on as a learning tool whenever possible.
These life skills lessons will be learned best when they become part of a daily routine. Augment the skills by practicing them at school and at home. Ultimately, plan field tests in the community to gauge progress.
For additional tips, as well as examples of disclosure letters and cards, please see the online appendix of this kit.
Community Life Resources
Recreation & Leisure:
What Leisure Activities Are Good Options for Adults with Autism, and Is It Important to Exercise Regularly?
by Toni Thomas, Family Program Manager, Emory Autism Center, Emory University School of Medicine
ABC News, October 23, 2008
Autism Risk & Safety Management
By Dennis Debbaudt
Autism Speaks: The Autism Safety Project
Travel Training for Youth with Disabilities
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities’ (NICHCY) Transition Summary
General Community Life Information:
Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder and Other ASDs
by Chantal Sicile-Kira
Guiding Your Teenager with Special Needs Through the Transition from School to Adult Life: Tools for Parents
by Mary Korpi
Autism & the Transition to Adulthood: Success Beyond the Classroom
by Paul Wehman, Marcia Datlow Smith and Carol Schall
The Autism Transition Guide: Planning the Journey from School to Adult Life
by Carolyn Thorwarth Bruey, Psy.D. and Mary Beth Urban, M.Ed.
Americans with Disabilities Act
Life’s Journey Through Autism, a Guide for Transition to Adulthood Organization for Autism Research, Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center and Danya International, Inc.
Alpine Leaning Group: Teaching Teenagers to Answer Cellphones