Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)

Department

Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Debra Hanson

Keywords

Adolescent; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Life Change Events; Students; Young Adult

Abstract

Problem: Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder comprise a rapidly growing population with approximately 1168 children being diagnosed annually (CDC, 2016). Individuals with ASD often have difficulties with social interaction, sensory processing, emotional regulation and adapting to environmental changes (Rogers, 2010). Individuals who are diagnosed early in life are provided a wide variety of services to minimize these symptoms to maximize independence later in life, and in an academic setting. As individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder come to the end of their K-12 education journey, the transition planning completed throughout the student's final year of high school are not carried out as support services are no longer required under law following graduation (IDEA, 2004). This lack of professional support following high school graduation may inhibit students' success and place distress on family members during the postsecondary transition.

Methodology: An extensive literature review was completed on the supports provided to students with Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as student and postsecondary faculty members' perceptions of the accommodations and experiences of this population at postsecondary institutions. The review demonstrated a lack of evidence supporting transition services for the ASD population during the transition from high school and postsecondary educational settings. The literature reveals a lack of communication between high school and postsecondary support professionals to facilitate ASD student transition.

The role of the occupational therapist in relation to ASD student transition is explored including their ability to analyze student's skills, everyday contexts and meaningful occupations and design accommodations appropriate to student's skills and abilities. In addition, occupational therapists knowledge of healthcare policy and their holistic view of individuals was noted as complimentary to the services already provided by existing support professionals. Promotion of occupational therapy services to professionals working in high school and post-secondary education settings was identified as central to establish the occupational therapy role in postsecondary transition services.

Product: A scholarly article was written to be published in a non-OT professional magazine to advocate for the integration of occupational therapy services into the postsecondary transition planning and implementation following high school graduation. The article introduces the reader to the gaps in transition services for the ASD population, provides an overview of the occupational therapy role, (based on the Person-Environment- Occupation (PEO) Model), provides a practice scenario demonstrating the value of the occupational therapy role in enhancing a student's emotional, social, academic and independent living skills during their post -secondary experience, and provides an overview of an existing transition program for reader reference.

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