Transitions for Older Youths

Note: In 2011, AOTA identified transitions for older youths as an emerging niche in occupational therapy. It has since become more mainstream, so newer content appears elsewhere on this site. This page has been retained for historical information. Learn more about the 2011 Emerging Niche series here.

TransitionWhy emerging? When older youths with disabilities approach high school graduation, planning what comes next is a difficult endeavor. Parents need information about resources and options for their children's independence. A new study found that when young adults with autism spectrum disorder leave high school, the number who receive therapy and other services they had in school declines significantly.1As the number of cases of autism in the U.S. continues to rise, those children and children with other disabilities will grow to be young adults who need assistance in independence and becoming productive members of society.

Get Involved! Linda Rudd, OTR/L, started working with transitions when she participated in an occupational therapy pilot project to increase the level of occupational therapy services available at high schools in her district. "My interest in transition services has increased, and I've become aware of the nationwide efforts to promote this practice area," she says.

Rudd believes that all school-based practitioners should ask themselves how many of their students will live with lifelong disabilities or impairments that will likely affect their ability to live and work independently. As students in high school begin to make plans for their future, they need to work with an occupational therapy practitioner to identify their strengths and weaknesses; learn self-determination and self-advocacy; and figure out accommodations, modifications, assistive technology, and adaptive equipment, according to Rudd. She encourages practitioners to stay involved throughout the students' educational careers.

"Transition services for high school students with disabilities provide an opportunity for occupational therapy practitioners to finally use the full scope of practice in the school setting," she says. "Transition is occupational therapy."



1. Henry, T. A. (2011, February 23). Autism patients lose access to key services after high school. Retrieved April 28, 2011, from