Imagine a Life

A Roadmap for Parents: Developing an Individualized Plan for the ASD Journey

Integrated Autism Consulting (IAC) has had a particular interest in working with young adults to assist them in charting their path to successful and meaningful lives. During the transition from secondary school, when young adults with ASD face the daunting challenge in taking the next step forward to adulthood, specific supports and resources are essential. As a result of the inherent characteristics of ASD, these young adults find themselves anxious, frustrated and confused. Often they are unsuccessful in their pursuits after secondary school: often dropping out of university or college, unable to find or maintain employment or graduating to their family’s basement and retreating into their own or online world. The recognition of these outcomes and the looming cohort of secondary school graduates with ASD, led to the development of the Transition To Life course (TTL). TTL was designed to provide participants with a comprehensive 12 week course in the many critical elements that need to be incorporated into the transition journey. Through the course and individualized coaching sessions participants learn about themselves and how to begin to navigate the transition to the adult world.

Imagine a Life road signs graphic

Since 2012 IAC has been directly involved in coaching, consultation for families and their young adults as well as conducting TTL courses throughout the province. Although parent participation is considered a key component of IAC’s founder Pat O’Connor’s model, this experience provided considerable insight into the need for more direct parent training. The Imagine A Life course was developed as a guide for parents who usually are as dazed, confused and frustrated about what to do next. The school programs, the professional and monetary supports were, for the most part, no longer there to assist in one of the most critical junctures of their transition into the adult world. We had TTL for the young adults but what about the parents who are critical and the most committed to their success. There was a great need for parents to have a framework to understand how their young adult was to navigate the transition to expectations and performance in the adult world. The use of journey we believe is an apt metaphor and description for conceptualizing the transition process. They generally feel ill equipped to undertake next steps beyond their familiar and safe environment, and parents vitally concerned about their future, have minimal resources to support them. The traditional approach of going to post-secondary school, finding employment, making friends, exploring sexuality, living independently, often does not occur successfully for ASD individuals, without knowledgeable assistance and guidance. With the years of experience working with parents as an educator, coach, and consultant and extensive experience with the ASD population, Pat has designed and developed an intensive workshop that addresses these critical needs… Imagine A Life.

An Exciting ASD Transition Journey: Hedley article PDFv2.pdf
This article first appeared in Autism Matters in the Fall 2017 Issue.

Transitioning to Adulthood: Employment Strategies and Life Skills for Teens and Young Adults with ASD 

Transition to Life: Strategies to Facilitate Success
Pat O’Connor speaking at the SAAAC Conference Fall 2019: Click here to view

Family support for individuals with ASD is a critical success factor in their transition to adulthood. Parents are their child’s first and lifelong teachers. Yet…. Their role is often minimalized and marginalized. At Integrated Autism we embrace and promote working as a team to navigate the many paths and pitfalls of that young people with ASD face in their transition to adulthood. The key issues that parents have to deal with at this juncture are to:

  • Understand and support the challenges of transitioning youth with ASD struggling to cope with the new reality
  • Deal with decreased services for adults
  • Absorb challenges in behaviour by seeking solutions to assist in them coping
  • Provide parents with strategies and insight for the struggles and challenges in envisioning supports for the near and distant future
  • Get a handle on the lack of understanding about the adult service system

To overcome these issues it is important for parents to understand certain gaps and realities of young adults with ASD:

  • They are asked to follow a generic pathway ill-configured for them
  • They need a tailored roadmap that is relevant in content to them as individuals and at an appropriate pace
  • They are not prepared to transition from a passive student role into an active worker role
  • They often possess skills and talents but cannot move from “marginal to marketable”.
  • They need preparation with specific skills and behaviour modifications that are required for successful participation in the neurotypical world

Imagine A Life is a multi-day workshop for parents to:

  • Gain understanding of the ASD context in the youth to adult transition
  • Understand the critical success factors when developing a transition plan
  • Participate and share with other parents for understanding and support
  • Consider the barriers to developing a meaningful daily schedule such as executive functioning, computer addiction and sleep
  • Explore self-regulation and anxiety reduction strategies
  • Learn how to assess and develop goals for their child in life skills, work readiness, community involvement, social understanding, health and wellness, and lifelong learning
  • Provide opportunity for individualized consultations

 Please Contact Patrica for information on the multi-day workshops and the 3-hour overviews.

“Imagine a Life is a unique workshop that I would highly recommend for any parent or professional attend. We know children with ASD become adults with ASD. This workshop is not just for parents who have teens or young adults but for any parent who has a child with ASD.
Parents attending Imagine a Life are fearful of what the future for their son/daughter with ASD holds but they know don’t know where to start or how to support their child. Pat is able to address these fears head on by providing realistic strategies and resources that parents are able to implement. Pat’s approach is unique as she empowers families, leading participants through a variety of exercises focusing on the skills and supports needed for each participant’s son/daughter to be successful.  Pat “gets it”- she is able to connect with families about the daily struggles and fears of raising a child with ASD but provides individualized solutions and strategies as to how families can best support their child.”
LB Brown
Family Support Coordinator Niagara, Hamilton & Brant Regions
“There is light at the end of the tunnel. Recently, I attended the Imagine a Life workshop in Barrie along with several other mothers. My son Joshua, who is almost 19, was diagnosed in the Fall of 2016 with high-functioning Autism. At first appearance Joshua is highly intelligent, well-mannered and articulate. However, the journey over the past eight years has been very difficult. Many times we felt lost and in need of a road map something to bring some clarity and direction and to help us set our priorities. The Imagine a Life day did just that. I was blown away by Patricia’s knowledge, experience and commitment. She is a voice of hope and clarity in the bewildering world of sorting through services and carving out a “successful life plan” for ASD youth – a life plan that is unique to each individual. The workshop covers so many topics that are crucial for the growth and development and transition to an independent life for our young adults with ASD. I know that if my son is accepted into the Transition to Life program at Humber College in the fall it will be a major step forward in his journey. It will give us the structure and accountability that we need as he steps away from home and into the broader community. The program that Patricia has put together is in great need across our province!”
Karen Mayer
Parent of a Young Adult with ASD
My child went through the [Transition To Life] program and it had a profound impact on his life, attitude, and self-worth. I highly recommend it be continued and offered more often. I know so many individuals that would benefit greatly from it in the Barrie area alone.
The [Imagine A Life] workshop that Pat O’Connor does is instrumental to this population. Her experience, vast knowledge, and effective delivery of information is incredible and so valueable.
Karen Roy
The amount of independence and confidence that taking the Transition to Life course has instilled in our daughter/sister is absolutely phenomenal. Being around people that genuinely cared about her progress and well-being has not only benefitted her by opening doors in the community for jobs and support, but also has motivated her to take steps in life that she didn’t even know she was prepared to take.  This course is an answered prayer for any youth on the spectrum that want a little love and support in an ominous society where support is scarcely given where it needs to be.
Kim (Mom) and Andrew (Brother)

Imagine a Life: Parent Evaluations Responses:
Survey information collected by Autism Ontario

“100% would recommend Imagine a Life to others.”

“Would love to, and do, however there are still so many parents out there that do not know how to identify ASD or accept it. Parents need help to start!”

“Excellent! Loved it! Would definitely attend another! Please extend it to three day workshop – lots of info.”

“All parents of ASD children need this information. Thank you so much!”

“Absolutely! My only input would be to make the print out of slides bigger – hard to read and little room to take notes.”

“For sure because it is needed here”

“Awesome info, this gives some concrete tools to share and confirmation of the thinking and what we want to do to go forward”

“The resource book is great. Thank you for all the strategies and activity sheets that are included in the second half of it.”

“It would be beneficial to have an overview of agencies, services and acronyms that are involved with transitions from youth to adult. Some of the information was hard to grasp with all the acronyms (ODSP, SIS, ILS, DSO…etc). Otherwise, the info provided was extremely helpful.”

“This day was extremely full. Doing this over 2 or 3 days would be better. I am so happy to take this course when my child is only 13. I feel far more comfortable with his future.”

“But needs to be more than one day.”