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Home About Us Blog Ask the Expert - Making the Positive Possible After High School

Ask the Expert - Making the Positive Possible After High School

Posted on 10/29/18 in Transition to Adulthood by Milestones

Ask the Expert - Making the Positive Possible After High School

Making the move from high school to adulthood is a complicated and emotional experience for anyone, but it can be even more so for people with autism and other developmental disabilities. The focus, though, should always be on what each transitioning student’s talents are, what motivates him/her to want to wake up in the morning, and what skills he/she brings to the table. If we’re able to foreground the person and his/her interests and skills throughout the whole process of transitioning into adulthood, teachers, interventions specialists, families, case managers, counselors, and especially the graduate, will all be in a good place when it’s time to make that final move to a job.

The process of career discovery should start at as early an age as possible, since the decisions and choices the student and his/her support team make every year echo throughout the person’s in-school and out-of-school career. Starting with a document to authentically communicate the student’s talents and interests is a great beginning to every conversation and every meeting. Leading with that person-centered information, and then moving into what the person needs to get there, including interventions or supports, is a much more productive use of time.

This discovery document is “owned” by the person and his/her family, and put into action as soon as the person starts school. It evolves as the person learns more about him/herself, and is the beginning of a “career profile” that includes talents and skills that can sometimes be left out of IEP and other meetings. This document assists the person to advocate for him/herself, and to communicate what he/she is good at, and capable of, so that this vital information drives the transition planning process just as much as what services/supports/interventions are needed.

A great resource and example of what this might look like is on the Ohio Employment First website. This discovery document information is part of a “Job Seeker’s Guide” we’ve pulled together to help people with autism and other developmental disabilities have the knowledge base and support needed to understand what it takes to get a job you really want once you graduate. Once you go there, you can check out eight learning modules to help navigate the path to community employment, and over 22 tools (including the discovery doc) that will help pave the way.

Doing all this upfront work also helps families and students communicate what they are expecting in terms of education and adult services, as the student goes grade to grade. It allows the transition plan to address the obstacles and needs better by concentrating on a positive and possible future. The best and simplest approach to making all this happen is through a “backwards planning” process, by starting where you want to end up. There are a lot more insightful, simple, user-friendly tools for transition planning here.

Once a student has a vital discovery document or profile, and he/she is using it to help guide the transition planning process, it’s also a great idea for his/her family, friends and other supporters to start connecting the student’s talents and skills with vocational possibilities. This focus on the importance of networking is key in finding the right job, and sometimes just pulling together a brainstorming session with the student’s support team, and using a half-hour or so to list out all the business-owners, entrepreneurs, and movers-and-shakers in the community the team knows will yield all kinds of real-world possibilities.

As well, taking a trip to the local Ohio Means Jobs, either online or in person, will be an eye-opening experience.  The online OMJ site has all kinds of resources and supports, including videos about different career paths and a virtual “backpack” that helps job seekers begin to develop a resume and other resources for a successful career path while still in school.

Transitioning from being a student to having a career entails all kinds of decisions, supports, and creative planning to keep things moving in the right direction.  Keeping the focus on what the person wants to do, and what motivates them to continue to do it, allows the planning process to help create meaningful results.

Keith Banner is the Employment and Community Life Engagement Project Manager in Southwest Ohio, through the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. His main objective is to help individuals, families, schools, providers, and county boards of developmental disabilities, as well as everyone else in the community, to strive toward a more community-minded way of supporting people.  One of his primary tasks is to support imaginative and innovative ways of supporting transitioning students. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Keith at (614) 687-1563, or by email at  For more information about Employment First and Community Life Engagement, please click here.

A couple more resources Keith suggests:
1) Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (the state agency that supports people with disabilities to enter the workforce) 
2) - For information and tools that support backwards planning
3) Milestones' Resource Center - check out transition resources here: Guides and websites

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