Frequently Asked Questions about Autism Life Coaching
Navigating life with autism can be complex. Whether your family is new to the autism community or you’re looking ahead to your student’s future, we’re here to help.
What is autism life coaching?
A life coach is someone who helps individuals reach their goals across multiple areas of life, from personal relationships through education, career and wellness goals.
At Spectrum Transition Coaching, we work one-on-one with families and autistic young adults to navigate life transitions. With specific, measurable steps, we’re able to overcome obstacles and help young adults succeed in college, career, and beyond. Beth’s coaching style combines her personal experience in the autism community with her years of study to support families.
What is the difference between coaching and therapy?
Coaching helps autistic young adults manage their emotions as they pursue their goals.
Therapy helps autistic young adults explore their emotions as they seek to understand themselves better.
We dive deeper into the differences and complementary nature of these two practices in this blog post.
My child was just diagnosed. Where do we begin?
First of all, take a deep breath. Receiving an autism diagnosis can evoke a lot of emotions in both parent and child. There are so many incredible resources and practitioners available now to help your student thrive in school, work, and life.
In the first weeks, I recommend the following:
- Read the evaluation report carefully and ask questions. The evalution report can hold a lot of useful and detailed information when you take the time to absorb it all. Follow up with the practitioner to answer any questions. Get copies to share with your student’s school.
- Share the diagnosis with your child, their educational team, and close family and friends. When people understand your student and their diagnosis, they are more able to support your family. Share this information with trusted friends and family to let them be a part of this journey with you.
- Explore all options before making major changes. It’s easy to want to make big life changes. I encourage a thoughtful approach exploring all the options before committing.
I’ve compiled a list of my favorite books for new diagnosed families. Read more about my top 6 book recommendations here.
Which package is right for my student?
We offer a few different types of coaching packages to fit your family’s needs and timeline.
- Targeted Coaching Package: Five coaching hours focused on making meaningful progress towards one specific goal.
- Comprehensive Coaching Package: Ten coaching hours with a holistic approach to improving multiple areas of life.
- College Semester Support: One 90-minute session at the beginning of the semester for syllabus review followed by twelve 30-minute weekly check-ins throughout the semester.
- Parent Consultation: If your student isn’t ready for coaching yet but you want another perspective on raising autistic young adults, we offer 90 minute parent consultations.
Learn more about our specific services here.
How do I know when my student is ready for coaching?
Coaching can be a wonderful and fulfilling endeavor, but it only works when the client comes to it of their own free will. One of the reasons I require an intake appointment with a potential client before we begin is to hear directly from the young adult that they are ready and willing to work together.
The key to successful coaching is that your autistic child wants to work for change. They need to feel the discomfort or frustration firsthand in order to be motivated to change their situation. Your frustration with the status quo will not empower them to take action.
This family questionnaire is a helpful guide to determine when your student may be ready for coaching.
How much do packages cost?
Coaching packages range from $1,000 – $1,800 depending on the number of hours.
Parent consultations start at $190.
We offer a variety of free webinars with autism experts. Sign up for our emails to learn about upcoming events.
When is the best time to get started?
The best time to get started is when your student is motivated to make a change. The best timing on paper does not matter if your student is not in the right head space to put in the work required to see progress.
For high school students focused on college readiness, I find that the spring semster of junior year is the ideal time to start.
For college students looking to stay on track, coaching works best when we start at the beginning of the semester.
For Parents of High School Students
How do we know if our student is ready for college?
College readiness combines a variety of factors to gauge if your student is ready for the independence and freedom of college. Students will need to build proficiency and confidence across these 6 areas to thrive in college:
- Executive function
- Social communication
- Life skills
- Emotional regulation
Schedule a parent consultation here to learn more about how to determine the best path for your autistis student after high school.
“How to College” by Andrea Brenner is a great resource to prepare for the reality of freshmen year.
You can also explore the college readiness resource options here.
When should we start exploring post-secondary options?
The fall of junior year of high school is a great time to start having honest conversations as a family to determine the best path after high school graduation. Building skills for college readiness takes time and it’s best to give your student ample time for personal and academic growth.
What is a gap year?
A gap year is a period of time taken after high school for student’s to pursue personal, professional, or academic growth before starting college or entering the working world.
Learn more about the pros and cons of a gap year here.
I am so involved in my student's day-to-day life. How do I help them become more independent?
This is one of the biggest hurdles for parents of autistic young adults. From the time they are little, you’ve been crucial to their growth and success. You’ve been their advocate, their cheerleader, their teacher and their confidante. As they grow and take on more responsibility, it’s hard to give up some of those roles.
Building independence is so important as autistic young adults progress from high school to college or career and beyond. Learn more about building independence with ‘just right’ challenges here.
For Parents of College Students
How do we best support our student while they are away at college?
Dropping off your child at college is a pivotal moment as a parent. You feel so excited for their upcoming experiences but also terrified and anxious for them at the same time. So how do you support them while giving them space to grow?
- Create a communication plan: You are set up for disaster if you expect to talk everyday but your student expects to talk once a week. Make a plan so you are both on the same page.
- Encourage them to start the semester strong: Planning at the beginning of the semester can prevent a lot of last minute stress. Help them to go through each course syllabus and write down all exams, papers, and projects on one master calendar.
- Jump in early: During the beginning of the semester, many student organizations and clubs host fairs and welcome events for new members. Encourage your student to attend to find out which groups they want to get invovled with on campus.
- Take a step back: Resist the urge to remind your student of every exam and paper. They need to experience natural consequences to improve their planning and organization skills.
- Bring in help: If your student needs more invovled support, consider a College Semester Support package. This can be a great way for them to stay on track with another trusted adult checking in weekly.
Our Fall Semester Roadmap blog can be a useful resources to share with your student.
My student is struggling academically. What should we do?
First of all, don’t panic. It’s natural for students to struggle with college courses and the lack of structure compared to their high school schedule.
Sit down with your student to find out more. Are they feeling overwhelmed or have they missed multiple assignments? Is it possible to drop certain classes? Have they attended their professor’s office hours?
Explore tutoring services to help your student catch up on difficult topics. Encourage them to reach out to their professors to help them catch up. Help them create a study plan for accountability. Most importantly, help them stay calm and let them know that you are on their side as they figure this out.
My student is struggling socially. What should we do?
The social aspect of college is a key component of thriving at college. But it can be hard to find your nice amidst a sea of freshmen. Here’s a few tips to help your student get plugged in:
- Share our friendship series. This blog series breaks down the steps to building genuine freindships into digestible bites.
- Help your student find groups that match their interests: One of the best parts of college is that their is a club for everything from anime to zoology. Find the student organization website and research a few clubs that match your autistic student’s personality and interests.
- Start online: Explore tools like Hiki to meet fellow autistic young adults for friendship and dating relationships.
My student loves college. How do we prepare for what's next?
That’s fantastic that your autistic young adult is thriving in college! It’s a major accomplishment to adjust to college life so you should feel proud of your student for making that leap.
Deciding what comes after college is another significant transition. I encourage students to meet with both their disability services office and career center to learn about options after graduation.
Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Roundtable is a phenomenal resource to find companies that have programs for neurodiverse young adults.
Handshake is another tool to find internships.
Don’t forget to think about job fit when interviewing for roles after college.
When is it appropriate for my college student to start thinking about life after graduation?
It’s never too early! I encourage students to start thinking about their careers starting freshman year. Here’s a few suggestions based on each year of college:
- Freshmen year: Start thinking about your major and what types of careers you’d like to explore. Set up shadow opportunities to see what a day-in-the-life is really like for your targeted professions. Draft your resume highlighting your high school extracurricular and volunteer experience. Start to get involved in campus organizations and building relationships with professors.
- Sophomore year: Begin researching and applying for internships. The summers after sophomore and junior year are excellent times to gain real worl experience in your field. Continue to invest time and energy in campus organizations, part-time jobs or volunteer positions.
- Junior year: Narrow down your internship search to line up great opportunities for the summer after junior year. Start networking with friends, family, professors and fellow students.
- Senior year: Begin applying for roles, refreshing your resume and cultivating references. Start submitting applications in the fall to line up a role after graduation.
My student did not succeed at college and moved back home. What's next?
You are not alone. College is a difficult transition for autistic teenagers and sometimes it doesn’t work out like we plan. Here’s a few ideas to support your student after they come home:
- Stay calm: The decision to drop out is not an easy one. Your student may have many emotions about this chapter of their lives.
- Provide breathing room: You may all need a few weeks to calm down before jumping into an action plan.
- Discuss next steps: Share a few different options for this period of time. Gap years can be really productive for students who use it to volunteer, travel, work or take classes close to home.
- Set expectations: After living independently on campus, your student may have a different perspective on the house rules. Try to come to mutual agreements about chores, cleanliness and household responsibilites.
For Parents of Autistic Young Adults
How do we encourage independence while our autistic child still lives at home?
It can be tricky to strike this balance while your student is under your roof. Here’s a few ideas to try:
- Set expectations for chores and meals: Is your student responsible for keeping their space clean? Do they cook Sunday dinners? Set these expectatoins and stick to them.
- Encourage driving: If your student hasn’t learned to drive yet, this is a great place to start. This guide from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia also has great information about teaching your autistic teen to drive. Driving with Autism is another great resource for autistic drivers and their parents.
- Explore Autism Grown Up: This is great resources for autistic adults.
My grown child is ready to look for a new job. How do we find the right fit?
Job fit is key to finding a job where your autistic young adult can thrive. Check out these resources to help with your search:
- CareerOneStop: CareerOneStop is the main career, training, and job search website for the U.S. Department of Labor.
- My Next Move: This interactive tool allows students and job seekers to learn more about their career options with details on skills, salary and tasks.
- JAN: The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability-employment issues. Their YouTube channel can be particulary helpful.
- Neurodiversity @ Work: This is an excellent resource to find neurodiverse hiring programs at top companies like Freddie Mac, Boeing, EY, Google, Dell and more.
My grown child has expressed interest in dating. What's next?
This can be a tough topic for any parent to navigate. Learn more in my dating on the spectrum blog post.
What are good ways to teach financial independence?
Financial independence is a big milestone towards establishing your own identity. This is a topic we explore in many coaching conversations. One of my favorite tips is to start with gift cards or prepaid visa cards. This lets young adults manage their own money and purchases but also sets limits so parents can have oversight into their decisions.
This resource from the Center on Secondary Education for Students with ASD is a great starting point.
My grown child had a few false starts and is back living with us at home. They seem to be stuck without much direction or motivation. How do we balance support with encouragement?
This can be a tricky balance to find. We want to support our grown children through their struggles but we also want them to become more self-sufficient.
Think of a few meaningful steps that your student can take towards independence, such as volunteering at a local organization or taking a class at a community college. If they had to drop out of college or got let go from a job, they may need some recent wins to build up their confidence.
Next, you can build on that success at home. Find ways for them to be more responsible around the house, contribute to home maintenance efforts or manage meal prep. Take small steps to help rebuild confidence and independence so they can get ‘unstuck.’
For more on parenting autistic young adults, read the full post here.