Table of Contents
This section includes practical information to help you and your teen navigate through high school and prepare for the transition to adult life. If you are looking for information and help on how to choose a high school and prepare your child for starting high school, please see SWAN’s 7 to 12 years booklet.
Education & The NDIS
Although the NDIS can fund a range of specialised supports for high school-aged children with a disability, it will not fund anything that should be the responsibility of the education system. Schools must continue to provide ‘reasonable adjustment’ for students with disability so that they can learn on an equal basis with other children. The school will work with you to develop your child’s educational goals and create an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Therapy plans should be consistent and directly related to the outcomes in your child’s IEP. The NDIS will fund allied health and other therapy supports such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and other allied health specialists depending on what each student needs because of their disability. These can be provided at school.
You can find more information on the NDIS website:
Here is a summary of what NDIS funds and what education systems can fund for children with disability.
- Self-care at school related to the student’s disability, such as support with eating.
- Specialised training of teachers and other staff about the specific personal support needs of a student with disability.
- Specialist transport required because of the student’s disability (does not replace parental responsibility).
- Transportable equipment such as a wheelchair or personal communication devices.
- Therapies a family and school have agreed may be delivered during school time but are not for educational purposes.
Education systems fund:
- Teachers, education assistants, and other supports e.g., Auslan interpreters.
- General support, resources, and training for teachers and other staff.
- Therapy delivered in schools for education or training purposes, such as allied health practitioners helping teachers and trainers adjust curriculums.
- Aids and equipment to make curriculums accessible, such as modified computer hardware, software, Braille textbooks, other accessible information formats.
- Adjustments to buildings such as ramps, lifts, accessible toilets, and hearing-loops.
- Transport for educational or training activities such as excursions, field trips and sporting carnivals.
- Day-to-day supervision of students at school, including behavioural support.
You can find more information on the NDIS website:
Before School Starts
Starting High school is a big step for any child, but there are a few things that can make it a smoother transition. Once you know which school your child will be going to, begin to familiarise them with the school and staff, practise skills that will help when they go to school, and talk a lot about the good things about going to school, including using social stories or a photo book.
Working With The School
A good working partnership with your child’s school and its staff becomes even more important in the high school years. Not only is your child continuing their education, but the school environment is different, and learning is becoming more focused on their future beyond school. In addition, teenagers are dealing with puberty, changes in how they look and feel, and their concerns about the world around them. It isn’t an easy time for any teenager, and autistic teens may find all these changes hard to manage.
An effective partnership relies on good communication, information sharing, respect, and both family and school working in different but complimentary ways towards common goals. Free resources and training are available for parents and teachers supporting autistic students from Positive Partnerships:
It’s important to have regular, open communication with your child’s teachers, so you can share useful information, celebrate successes and deal with any issues before they become more serious concerns. If your child has difficulties communicating, an open line to school staff is even more important.
Parents/carers need to know what is happening at school, to talk with their child about how things are going. Similarly, it’s important for teachers to know if there is anything significant happening in their student’s life that could be having an impact on their learning. Together, parents/carers and teachers can work out some useful goals, strategies and have agreement on things such as homework.
Many families and high school teaching staff find that email works well, being quick and easy and involving whoever needs to be part of the communication.
Some families may like to continue using a communication book if they have used one during primary school and if it is still seen as appropriate – including by your teenager. It’s important to establish a system that works and is acceptable for everyone.
Don’t forget to look out for general notes from school and read the school newsletter as well. Schools put out lots of information and it can be easy to miss things. It’s a good idea to have a simple system at home to keep on top of information, events, meetings and things you have to do.
Your Child's Legal Rights
Hopefully, you won’t need to use legal information, but it is always useful to know about education rights just in case.
According to law, Australian children with disability, in every state and territory, have the right to access and participate in education on the same basis as children without disability.
The law that covers these rights is the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992. The Act also has Education Standards that set out what schools and other education providers must do. Schools and other education providers must not treat children with disability differently from other children. This is discrimination. They must also provide ‘reasonable adjustments’. This includes things such as support staff, equipment, materials, modifications and other things each child needs to support them to learn. This does not mean being told your child should learn in a separate learning environment because that is where the specialist support is located. Children with disability have the right to the supports they need to learn alongside other children in mainstream settings. If the school you choose will not accept your child into the mainstream or provide the support they need, you can get support from an advocacy organisation to negotiate with the school. You can also get help to make a formal complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Knowing these rights gives you the knowledge and confidence that you can approach any school in any system and know that by law they must treat your child the same as any other child.
Getting To Know Your Teenager
Before the school year begins, update any information you may have previously put together for primary school. Make sure you have information for the school so that teachers understand the support your child needs, their communication, interests, dislikes and triggers and useful strategies, to support their learning and inclusion. The information should include any health issues, access needs and therapy goals. Think about the areas where your child has specific support needs such as communication, self-help skills, mental health, or sensory processing issues. Provide school staff with specific information on how they can support your child. For example, allowing your child have breaks to move around, or letting them wear headphones or have comfort items in the classroom.
Create a new information file or One Page Profile (OPP), which provides a current picture of your child’s strengths, how they communicate, what they enjoy, what motivates them, and how they need and want to be supported. These are especially useful in a high school setting where your young person will come into contact with many more teaching and other school staff, providing the really important information all on one easy to read page. There are some great age-appropriate One Page Profile templates you can download, and at this age it is really important for your teen to be fully involved in creating the profile. See page 51 for extra information on OPPs.
The school will work with you to develop your child’s educational goals and create an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). IEPs are sometimes called Individual Learning Plans, Personalised Learning Plans or other names depending on the school or school system. They can also look different, but they must contain all the information needed to ensure children with disabilities have an appropriate learning program to meet their individual needs. They are an action plan so they should be clear and easily understood by everyone involved.
What is in an IEP?
While each child is unique, your child’s IEP is likely to focus on some or all of the following:
- Academic strategies and progress
- Communication strategies and progress
- Physical health and needs
- Independence skills, including building capacity to study and self-care
- Socialisation skills and peer connection issues
- General emotional well-being
- Self-regulation and behaviour skills
IEPs contain information about your child, goals for your child’s learning and how the school will help your child work towards those goals; and the ‘reasonable adjustments’ the school will make to make sure your child has access to teaching, learning and the schooling experience generally.
What are reasonable adjustments?
Teachers understand that children learn in different ways, and they adapt the teaching environment, the curriculum and materials and how they teach, to suit the child. These kinds of changes are called adjustments. By law, schools must make balanced and fair changes. These are known as reasonable adjustments. Your child’s adjustments should be included in their IEP. The only reasons why schools may refuse to make an adjustment for a child with disability are that:
- It would be too hard for the school,
- It would be dangerous for people in the school, or
- It would be against the law.
When schools choose adjustments, or when they refuse to make adjustments, they must explain their choice to the student and their family. If you disagree with the school’s decision, you can complain to the school’s education authority. You can also get advice on whether the school’s decision meets the Disability Standards for Education and seek advocacy help if you need to take action. Sussex Street Community Law Service is the disability discrimination lawyer in WA. Their services are free.
Who comes to IEP meetings?
IEP meetings, sometimes called case conferences, involve your child’s teacher, maybe their education assistant, the school’s learning support coordinator if they have one, and school administrator. A school psychologist and therapists who work with your child may also be present. Importantly, parents are involved in the discussion and decisions.
One or both parents can attend, and you can have another person with you if you wish. This could be a friend, family member or other person you trust to help you. It’s important to prepare for these meetings to get the best IEP for your child.
- Think about your overall vision for your child, to share with and help guide the school.
- Think about some specific goals to go in the plan.
- Decide on your ‘bottom line’. While you need to be firm about your vision, the school may want to negotiate on some details. You need to think about what, if any, compromises you are happy to make.
- Gather all relevant documentation and information.
- If you have a partner or other person with you, make sure you both know your goals for the meeting and the way you will approach discussions, so you are ‘on the same page’. Make sure any support person understands their role. You may just want moral support, or someone to take notes.
You may want them to remind you or help with information as needed.
Talk about their role beforehand so it is clear, and you can feel confident about their support.
- You may be asked to sign a copy of the IEP at the end of the meeting to show you agree with it. It is reasonable to say you want a copy and a couple of days to read through it. You may find you want to ask questions or have further discussions before you agree to the IEP. You can also seek advice from an advocate or your child’s therapist before signing. There are some useful resources to help you with the IEP process. You can download these free:
Your Child’s IEP – Guide for Families from All Means All, the Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education. AMA IEP Guide
Planning for Personalised Learning and Support, Education Department of WA. Department of Education – Planning for Personalised Learning & Support
One Page Profiles
A one-page profile is a great way to communicate important information about a person all in one easy-to-find space. You can use them in all kinds of settings to help support people of all ages. For example, you might create a child’s first one-page profile when they are just about to start going to childcare. Starting kindy, pre-primary or school are also good times to create or update your child’s profile. Because the information is all on one page, this means that anyone reading it can quickly see what is most important to know about the person. The one-page profile is a good ongoing reference for teachers, child care workers, and other support staff, and helpful for new or relief staff so they don’t have to read lots of information before they can start their work.
Each one-page profile has the following categories of information in it:
- Name of the person
- What is important to me
- What people like and admire about me
- How I want to be supported
How to Make a One Page Profile
There are lots of downloadable age-appropriate templates you can use. Teenagers may like to choose one that suits them best. You can make your own but be sure it has the same categories of information as we’ve listed above These have been shown over many years to be the most effective. Sometimes parents/carers work by themselves to write their child’s profile. With a very young child, this is fine, and parents/carers do know their children and the support they need well. But as your child gets older, it is better to ask other people who know them well to take part in writing the profile. You might be surprised that other people often add some very positive and useful information that you might not have known or thought about. Older children and adults can either write their own or get help to create or contribute to their profile.
One-page profiles need to be updated regularly so that the information is current. It’s a good idea to put the date on the profile. This website has lots of helpful information on creating a one-page profile:
Sample Blank Profile:
Sample Completed Profile:
Outside School Hours Care for Teenagers with Disability
If you are looking for before school, after school and holiday programs for your teenager, support funding now needs to be included in their NDIS plan. Discuss this with your LAC at plan review time, and also ask for information about programs in your area. Your child’s school may run or know about nearby programs, or you can look up registered service providers on the NDIS MyPlace portal, and you can also look in your local government community directory.
Life After School
Thinking about your child leaving school can be daunting. There are so many unknowns that it can sometimes be hard to imagine what life will be like for them and for your family when they take that step into adult life, so this section contains information on a range of options you can think and talk about with your teenager. We’ve included information on funding, services and resources to support them to explore and work towards their chosen post-school goals. While there’s still a lot to think about and do, we hope this will make the way ahead clearer and easier. The best advice is to begin talking with your child early – it’s never too early to have conversations about what they might like to do when they grow up, but it is something we should talk about well before leaving school is upon us. The more your child is involved in this early exploration of ideas, the better the chance of good decisions and outcomes.
A good place to begin discussions is by exploring your child’s personal qualities and skills and their strengths, along with their interests and the things they enjoy doing. By observing these and talking about them, as well as the things they really don’t like or have any interest in, together you can come up with some ideas for what they might like to try.
Work or further education?
For some young people, going on to further education might be their preference. Some may want to do some training to get the skills and qualifications they need to get the job of their choice. Other young people might want to start working and earning a wage as soon as possible when they leave school. We have included information to help you explore the possibilities and navigate the different pathways.
The role of your child’s school
Regardless of the kind of school or school system, education providers have a responsibility to help students with disability transition successfully to postschool life. This begins with developing a plan to guide their transition. The student, parents/carers and school staff come together to develop a plan.
Your early discussions with your child will be invaluable in this process, especially when you are developing the vision statement that sets out their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future – what they would like to be doing years after leaving school. Your own expectations and focus will also help set the scene.
While this is an important step in the transition process, the vision is not set in stone. As your child continues their education, takes part in work experience and is more involved in the community, their earlier ideas and goals may develop further or change. The transition plan needs to be flexible and respond to these changes to support the student.
What is in an Individual Transition Plan?
An ITP is an action plan, a statement of responsibility and an accountability document.
It should contain information about your child’s: • Developing skills and understandings; and
- Changing goals, aspirations, interests and needs.
It also needs to include:
- Changes in your child’s environments; and
- Information about new and emerging future options.
It must also include ways of measuring the ongoing success of the strategies in the plan, to see what worked and what might need to change. The ITP needs to set clear achievable goals that can be measured. This helps everyone involved to stay focused and work together to the same goals.
Importantly, you and your teenager should be involved in an ongoing way with developing what is in the ITP and in how it is used to support your child’s transition. ITP meetings are a chance to work together with the school to talk about how things are going, sort out any issues, share information, do further planning and celebrate successes.
You can find out more about the process of developing an individual transition plan here. It is from the state education system, but all school systems follow a similar process:
Work experience is a chance for high school students in Year 10 to learn new skills, increase their confidence and help them work out what they want to do when they leave school. They can even add the work experience to their school leaver resume.
Your child’s school is responsible for providing opportunities for them to try out what it’s like to be in the workforce, and there should be discussions at ITP meetings about what kind of work experience would be useful for your child. Parents/carers can also be involved in providing practical help to find work experience opportunities. For example, if you know someone who has a business that could offer a useful placement for your child, you could ask them if they would like to help then pass on their details to the school to follow up.
Your involvement could open up greater opportunities than if you leave it all up to the school. Sometimes, schools can have low expectations when it comes to work experience for students with disabilities. However, your involvement in the ITP and with work experience will help them understand that your child has the right to expect real work experience just like other students. School organised work experience is often just for one week at a time.
However, you can ask for some longer periods or ongoing work experience or volunteer opportunities. This is especially important for a young person who needs extra time and support in adjusting to new situations and learning new skills.
Where can we find work experience opportunities?
There are all kinds of work experience your child could try. It’s always best if you can find something that fits with their interests and will help them develop some useful skills. Here are some ideas to talk about together:
Primary schools/kindergartens/child care – If your teenager is interested in working with children, they might like to try work experience in one of these settings.
Digital media – For young people with an interest in working in information systems, web development, digital design or media communication.
Op Shops – Work experience in an op shop can provide a range of skills to suit different abilities. It might be hard to get work experience in a busy retail store, but op shop experience can give some idea of whether working in retail might interest your teenager.
Hospitality – There are many kinds of work in hospitality, and it’s a good way to learn a variety of skills and help your teenager think about whether this might be a career path for them.
Animal care – Vet clinics, animal shelters and pet shops are a popular choice of work experience for animal lovers, who can learn all kinds of skills to help them think about employment options. Zoos and aquariums often offer work experience to school students.
Research centre – Young people who are interested in science may like to try working in a research centre. These may be government or private and are sometimes attached to universities or hospitals.
Sports clubs, recreation centres – Community sports clubs, gyms and recreation centres are often glad of an extra person to help in a range of roles. If you are already part of a club you can ask if they would have some work experience for your child.
Local government – Local councils provide a wide variety of services – think libraries, gardening, administrative work, IT and many more – and can be a good place to approach for work experience.
What support will my child get for work experience?
Schools are required to ensure students get the support they need to be safe and have a useful experience. Ask the school what support your child will get, including how they will get to and from their placement, what support they will get from school staff in the workplace, and who you can contact if you have any questions or concerns. See the section on NDIS Employment Support for other supports your teenager may be able to access.
As well as earning your own money, having a job helps you be independent, learn new skills, meet new people and take pride in being a valued member of the workforce, contributing to society. So it’s important that young people who are autistic get opportunities and the support they need to be employed.
From Year 10 in high school and into adult life, there are options and support. However, the systems can be quite complex to navigate. This section provides you with some information about employment as well as some tips and links to more information, support services and practical resources to help your autistic teen find employment that works for them.
Open Employment or Supported Employment?
Open Employment means working in a regular job in the community alongside everyone else and getting a fair wage.
Supported Employment is the term used for working in a workplace that is just for people with disabilities. These workplaces are called Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) and used to be known as sheltered workshops. People in ADEs are supported to work and receive very low wages on top of their Disability Support Pension (DSP).
It’s important to know that even if your child needs a lot of support, they can get ongoing support to work in open employment too. There are different ways they can get support, depending on what they want to do, the kinds of support they need, and how much work they can do each week. Some employment support is available from the NDIS and some from Disability Employment Services (DES) that is available whether or not you have NDIS funds. See DES for further information:
NDIS Employment Support
Finding and Keeping a Job
For young people who have an NDIS plan, employment support can be available as early as Year 10. While the school is responsible for providing supported work experience that is part of the curriculum, students aged from 14 years and 9 months or in Year 10, who have an NDIS plan, can ask for funds to help them with ‘Finding and Keeping a Job’. They need to have an employment related goal in their NDIS plan. It doesn’t mean they are expected to get a job at that age, but to begin getting ready for employment. This can include help with planning for employment, skills training, writing a resume and work experience. You will need to ensure this is requested at your child’s plan review, so it is available by the time they need it during Year 10. You can look up service providers that are registered to provide this type of support or find your own suitable staff if your child’s plan is self-managed or plan-managed. If your child has Support Coordination, they should be able to help you find the support your child needs. NDIS Finding and Keeping a Job funding can be requested by anyone of working age who has an employment goal in their NDIS plan.
School Leavers Employment Supports (SLES)
SLES is a support for school leavers to help them transition from school into employment. It is designed to help with building a pathway to open employment, including ‘try and test’ work experiences, building workplace skills, travel training and other activities to help young people transition from school into employment, or link with ongoing employment support (such as through a DES).
It is important to understand that SLES is not a program, but individual support funding in a young person’s plan. The funds will be allocated for the ‘reasonable and necessary’ supports each Year 12 student needs. SLES funds may be included in a student’s plan during the final year of school, either in a first plan or plan review during that year so that they can access the funds during the last few months of school. SLES can now also be accessed by people up to 22 years of age. You can find more information on SLES here:
To find service providers to help with employment support using NDIS funding, look for those registered under ‘Assist to Access/Maintain Employment’ in the Provider Finder in the myplace portal.
You might also like to look into Customised Employment to find the best fit and support for your teenager. Customised Employment is an individualised approach that fits a person’s skills, interests, strengths and support needs while meeting the needs of business or the community for a service or product. This could mean they get a job within a business or organisation that is tailored to them. Or it could mean identifying a service or product that they could develop into a small business or ‘microenterprise’.
People can use Finding and Keeping a Job or SLES funding for Customised Employment. This would give them one on one support to explore what work could mean for them, known as Discovery, and then work on individualised job creation.
You can find more information about Customised Employment here:
Here is some information about Microenterprises:
‘Let’s talk about work’ is an NDIS booklet that tells you about how the NDIS can help with employment. You can also use it as a workbook to write down key information about your child’s ability to work, their strengths, any barriers and the kinds of support they need. When you go to your child’s planning meeting, make sure you take the booklet with you and use it when you talk with your LAC or planner. You can download it here:
Developmental Disability WA ‘Kick-Starting your Child’s Career Journey’ is a guide for families of young people with disability which contains really useful tips and information to help families plan constructively for their child’s future employment.
Down Syndrome Australia has a series of practical resources for people with disability, their families and employers to help plan for, find and keep employment. The resources for employees can be used as workbooks and are available in Plain English and Easy Read. You can download them free here:
Your son or daughter may decide they want to continue to study after school either to pursue their interests or to get qualifications or skills they need for their chosen career. Young people who are autistic may be able to access some supports from the education provider and/or from NDIS. Each university has its own entry requirements and pathway and the kinds of supports they may be able to offer will vary. You and your child will need to explore these to work out what is available and what might be a good match for their interests and goals. Here are some useful links to start:
University of WA
UWA Uni pathway options:
UniAccess supports students with disability to stay healthy during their studies and perform at their academic best. This includes UWA’s Specialist Mentoring Program for students with autism or related conditions, which includes a specially designed support program, peer mentoring and opportunities to meet other autistic students at social gatherings.
You can find information for students and families about UniAccess here:
Murdoch Uni pathway options:
Murdoch has a team of disability advisors. They provide students with individualised support such as assistance with their studies, and help with coursework or exams. You can find out more here:
Curtin Uni pathway options:
Curtin’s AccessAbility Services provides a range of support and assistance to help students with disability at university. You can find out more here:
Curtin has a Specialist Mentoring Program that provides support for autistic students with ASD: Curtin Uni Autism Mentoring
Edith Cowan University (ECU)
ECU’s Equity, Diversity and Disability Service provides students with support regarding their studies, as well as ensuring any reasonable adjustments are in place such as accessible study materials, alternative assessment and exam conditions and access to assistive equipment. You can find more information here: swanautism.org.au/ecu-disability-services
TAFE to Uni pathway finder
Students can do some studies at TAFE as a pathway to university. WA TAFE Colleges have formal arrangements with universities to allow TAFE Diploma and Advanced Diploma graduates to enter a university degree with advanced standing. Here is some more information on how this works:
TAFE offers lots of different VET (Vocational Education and Training) opportunities in TAFE colleges across WA. TAFE comes under the WA Department for Training and Workforce Development, but each TAFE college decides what courses to offer and how it operates. You need to look locally to see what is available and also what supports your local TAFE has for students with disability.
South Regional TAFE
The Disability Liaison Officer and Student Services staff at South Regional TAFE can assist teachers, parents and students to plan for a successful transition to study at TAFE. Here are their contact details:
South Regional TAFE Student Services staff Bunbury campus – phone 6371 3245 or 0417 937 894, or email: StudentServices@srtafe.wa.edu.au
South Regional TAFE Disability Liaison Officer Albany campus – phone 6371 3741 or email: DisabilityServices@srtafe.wa.edu.au
South West VETLink
South West VETLink is a service that can help high school students and their families find out about pathways to further education and employment. For further information, please contact VETLink Bunbury office:
Phone 0409 200 702
NDIS and Further Education
The NDIS is responsible for supports to lessen the impact of your disability on activities that are not directly related to your education or training. These can include personal care and support, transport to and from the campus, assistive technology and equipment, and specialist supports for the transition from further education to employment.
The NDIS is not responsible for learning and support needs that primarily relate to further education and training success. Higher Education or Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers are required by law to provide support that is directly related to your child’s studies. This can include learning assistance, building modifications, transport between education or training activities and general supports to transition from education to employment.
You can find more information here:
You can find more information about the education standards that set out your rights here: Disability Standards for Education
NDIS Pre-Planning Toolkit
This Pre-Planning Toolkit is for people with autism planning to enter Higher Education or Vocational Education and Training (VET). Your teenager’s disability may mean they need extra support to complete their chosen course and to participate equally with other students. This booklet will help identify what supports your child may need, who is responsible for providing them and how you can access them: