Launch: Development and Implementation of a Transition Planning Program for Youth with Autism

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 4, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
V. R. Smith1 and K. C. Lowe2, (1)Educational Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, CANADA, (2)Sinneave Family Foundation, Calgary, AB, Canada

It is uncommon for youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to receive services to help them transition from childhood health, education and social service support systems of childhood services to adult services, activities, and systems of support. In fact, according to a recent report, only one fifth of youth with ASD receive any transition planning services (Kulhthau, et al., 2015) and the majority of these services focus only on employment and education (Gorter et al., 2011), not the full complement of domains that contribute to adult well-being.

The Launch Program was developed in response to family and community needs to have transition support and planning for youth with ASD. Development of the program was guided from consultation with family and community stakeholders and aims to support families and youth with ASD to identify their unique transition priorities across five life domains (i.e., 1) health and well-being, 2) education and employment, 3) communication and social relationships, 4) independent living skills and self-advocacy, and 5) legal and financial issues), help them to develop an Individual Transition Plan (ITP), and source resources in the community to meet their transition goals.


  • To evaluate the Launch program impact, and
  • To provide recommendations as Launch prepares to move forward from Phase One (development and pilot) to Phase Two (refinement and export to other community settings)


A mixed method sequential explanatory design was used to address the research objectives. Questionnaires were completed by youth and their parents to better understand the program impact and implementation model. Questions addressed readiness for change, aspects that influence engagement (i.e., trust, cooperation, and diligence), key benefits of the program including skills, knowledge, and resources obtained, and barriers to implementing transition plans. Interviews were conducted with youth and their parents to help enrich understanding of the questionnaire results.


Fifty-eight families participated in the study. Youth presented with priorities from each of the five life transition domains. Social skills, communication, and relationships with peers were the most prevalent presenting concerns, with employment and employment supports higher for the clients who were older. Both parents and clients reported that they began Launch with a readiness to change and were engaged in the program, indicating that they trusted the clinicians and co-operated with them. Survey respondents indicated that they obtained knowledge, skills, and resources by participating in the program and there was a strong sentiment that the program served a vital guidance to help negotiate transitions to adulthood. Barriers to implementing the transition plans included personal, logistic, and resources difficulties. In addition, while the overwhelming response to Launch was positive, some barriers included issues related to the program including follow-up, adequacy of resources, and documentation.


The Launch program components, delivery, and outcomes have the potential to contribute to the paucity of effective transition programming for youth with ASD. Proposed next steps include a Canada-wide scale out of Launch through the development of province-specific versions of the program, and training of local community facilitators to deliver transition planning workshops.