Aligning Goals Between Parents and Students with Autism and Learning Differences


As a parent of an adolescent or emerging young adult with Autism, ADHD, or a learning difference, you may be considering more comprehensive supports that can be found in post-secondary transition support programs. 

But where do you start and how do you make sure you, your young adult, and the program staff are all on the same page? Whether in their teens or twenties, students may be unsure of their goals or just unsure of how to communicate them, and having a parent help them discern if their goals align with the program of their choice is key.


Goal conversations among students, parents, and program professionals are formative experiences for everyone involved - they help establish clarity and a common vision, and they go beyond deciding if a program is a match, to a place where a specific set of goals is stated and there is a partnership among everyone at the table. 


Identify SMART Goals

Before visiting your next program, consider having you and your student each identify three SMART goals you hope to achieve with the support of the program. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound - when a SMART goal is achieved, everyone can see the success (and celebrate it!)

For example, one common SMART goal students come to CIP with deals with relationships. Students want more than social skills -- they want friendships. Here’s just one SMART goal in this area of life that your student might have: I want to engage in two social activities with a friend every weekend.


Have a conversation about these goals with the program before you choose them - alignment of goals before signing up for a program helps your student and family make a choice with confidence!  


Think Creatively

If you’re not sure if your goals align, reach out to the program to have the conversation. Where some students are confident about an academic or vocational goal (get a college degree, get a job in a particular industry), but some are not sure. At CIP, we find the best way to begin is by asking your students questions that help bring out what they are interested in that could potentially become the roadmap for success:


  • What are their interests?
  • What makes them smile or laugh?
  • What are some things they do well?
  • What makes them curious? What do they want to know more about?
  • Where are places they like to go?


These kinds of questions are meant to stimulate a starting place that ensures your student finds the right program that matches their goals.


Talk About the Process

With new steps come new awareness, new understanding, and new ideas. It is to be expected that student goals may change over time as they learn from new experiences in the program. Before they start, ask about assessment, goal planning, and support. What will happen as the weeks and months unfold? How does the team approach and respond to student development? How are decisions made and how are you involved as the parent of this emerging young adult? These kinds of questions are meant to stimulate a starting place that ensures your young adult finds the right program that will best provide them the tools to help them achieve their goals.


Don't know where to start?


We've compiled a comprehensive list to make sure you are asking the right questions in your search for a support program. Fill out the form below and download our guide today! 

About College Internship Program

The College Internship Program is a comprehensive transition program for young adults on the Autism Spectrum and with Learning Differences. Our Mission is to inspire independence and expand the foundation on which young adults with Autism, ADHD, and other Learning Differences can build happy and productive lives.