#137: College Planning for Individuals with Autism: Interview with Brenda Eaton

Are you looking for direction in what the future holds for your child? What does college look like for an individual with autism or other developmental delays? Brenda Eaton, BCBA and Certified College Coach, joined me to discuss autism and college and the ins and outs of preparing for and beginning college.

Transitioning from high school to college is a scary and difficult process for more than those that are on the autism spectrum. Brenda shares the staggering statistic that more than 30% of students do not make it past the first semester of their first year of college. This means that it is incredibly important to know if college is right for your child and what programs and resources are available to help them. Every college is mandated to have an Office of Disability Services and this is a department that can help your child with autism get the services they need and understand what they have access to.

Brenda is a Certified College Coach which is a way to keep your child accountable and also a point of contact to be an advocate for the student. Many parents will try to act as that coach, but Brenda details that a specific relationship designated for their success in college will more often motivate the student to hold themselves to a higher standard. College coaches vary in the respect to how they help the student but they can help access services such as extended time on tests as well as create routine check-ins to assess due dates and tasks.

An important factor Brenda and I discuss is IQ. IQ is not the most important thing when deciding if college is right for your child. There are also life skills and executive functioning skills that come into play. Students who go away to a four-year school are being removed from their home with their very familiar routines to a new place where they are responsible for feeding, cleaning, and taking care of themselves. This can sometimes be a challenge more than the basic intelligence of the child.

Four-year college is not the only post high school destination for students. There are community colleges, vocational-technical programs, and even the workforce. It’s really important to decide with your child what their goals and needs are and determine the right path for them. Specific funding and programs vary state to state and country to country. We discuss a little about what is locally available but it’s important to research the funding and programs available unique to your situation!

Brenda is a wealth of knowledge when tackling those future goals for your children. Hopefully, this gave you some insight on where to look and what to talk about with your child as you move forward in their education and goals.

TODAY’S GUEST

Brenda Eaton, brendaeaton.life, has a Master’s Degree in Education from Temple University and is a BCBA. She is also a Positive Psychology Practitioner. She has worked in public education for 17 years as a Special Education Consultant for autism and related disorders with training in Cognitive Behavior Training CBT, and Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT). Brenda also developed the CATCH Team, a cross system diagnostic program with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for early screening and diagnosis for high-risk toddlers in Early Intervention. She has been an Adjunct Professor for Drexel’s Autism Certificate as well as West Chester University’s Special Education Department Course called, “Family Systems”. Brenda has written a chapter on Early Intervention for the textbook used in the West Chester University course entitled, “Parents and Families of Student with Special Needs”(2016).  Visit brendaeaton.life/ready for college ready tips!

YOU’LL LEARN

  • Shocking statistics that apply to ALL college students.
  • What is a College Coach and how can they help?
  • What programs and funding are available for individuals with autism?
  • What skills do individuals with autism need to attend college?
Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism?
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Transcript for Podcast Episode: 137
College Planning for Individuals with Autism: Interview with Brenda Eaton
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera

Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around podcast episode number one hundred and thirty seven today, I have a good friend of mine, actually one of my very first autism friends on the show. And we are going to be talking all about transitioning from high school to post-high school opportunities, including how to select and how to have your child do well in a college setting, if that's appropriate for him or her. Before I get to that introduction, though, I wanted to give a shout out to one of our podcast listeners who gave a five star review on Apple podcast. She said she's thankful for this podcast. "I'm so thankful for this podcast. Mary has helped so many children and parents. Her methods are proven and work. Thank you, Mary." So thank you, Crystal, for that great shout out. And if you haven't given a review on Apple podcast or wherever you're listening, I would love it if you would do that. I read all of them and I would be happy to give you a shout out sometime in the near future. So today we are talking all about how to select a college, what kind of supports the kids need after high school with our expert, who is Brenda Eaton. I met Brenda over two decades ago. She has been a mom to two neuro diverse adult children who are both successful. One of those children does have autism as well. Brenda went on to become a professional in the field. She's been a board certified behavior analyst for 11 years and she's been in the field of autism since her son was born two decades ago. So today we are just going to cover a lot of things. And Brenda does drop some statistics, even for a typically developing kids who go to college who may not be as successful as we want them to be. So let's get to this important interview with Brenda.

Narrator: Welcome to The Turn Autism Around podcast. For both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host, autism behavior analyst and bestselling author, Dr. Mary Barbara.

Mary: OK, so, Brenda, it is so nice to talk to you, I haven't talked to you forever and it's nice to have you on my podcast.

Brenda: It's wonderful to be here.

Mary: Yeah. So I got a question from a friend of mine who whose son who has autism is going to college for the first time in the fall. And I recommended that I, that she might speak with you. And I was like, you know what? I'm going to check in with Brenda and we're going to talk about college, you know, and post-secondary education opportunities. But before we get to all of that and your extensive experience with that, I always like to start my interviews the same way and which is describe your fall into the autism world.

Brenda's Background and Entrance into the Autism World:

Brenda: Well, yes. So I had my daughter, who was a year and a half, and my son was born and about a year and a half for him. His dad said, you know, something's wrong. And I'm like, what do you mean? He sits there, he plays with one toy, he's quiet. What's the problem? So at that point, we took him for an evaluation. And my son really is the quiet one that would stare at a corner for hours on end and wouldn't learn anything. So not so much behavioral issues, at least not initially. But over time, he did develop some behaviors. We had him evaluated. I was one of those parents who had to take the diagnosis for a little while. I finally got one at three and we did our home ABA program where I started that around 3 and we had 40 hours a week of ABA and all that wonderful stuff. And I had a parent call me. I think her name was Mary Barbera, and she wanted to come over and see my home program. I said, sure, come on over. So that's where Mary and I met and where we got started. And we were conference buddies, you know, going to every conference we could get our hands on, too. And both of us are doing our ABA thing. Mary took a faster direction because I had a day job that I still do. So so, yeah, that's that's where it started.

Mary: Yeah. So your kids are now in their 20s and yeah, I went to a couple people's houses, Brenda's house, and I went to another friend's house and the three of us, plus a couple other moms also founded our local chapter of the Autism Society together in the year 2000. And we became really fast friends. And I think there's a lot of people listening that have kids with Autism. I don't know exactly how what the percentages, but I'm guessing that about 60 to 70 percent of our listeners are parents and the rest are professionals. But there are people like you and I who are both parents and professionals, or we had Bridget Taylor on the show and she's a sibling, which I didn't know of, of somebody. And I'm not sure if it's Autism or Down's Syndrome. But, you know, even the behavior analysts that I've interviewed over the years since I started the podcast most so the times they they fell into the autism world by responding to a little ad that they were college and working with a child with autism. So we kind of all have a lot in common. But Brendon, I had a ton in common. And, you know, we're still friends. And you do you did go on to become a board certified behavior analyst. And you really are specializing to some degree in college coaching. And we're going to dive into that as well. So and the other thing I'm curious, because in my case, I had two boys back to back eighteen months apart. But I'm sure that you got some of the well, you're comparing it to your daughter and girls talk more than boys and that sort of thing. Did you get a lot of that kind of poopooing concerns?

Brenda: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, I, I think the pediatrician's office was really not that helpful. Let's give a little more time. I think that was the classic in our day was let's give it a little more time. And that is obviously the opposite of what you do. You want to get on top of it as soon as possible. So, yeah, he's a boy. Yeah. It's going to take him some time. So, yeah, I think that was part of a challenge. And just people I think a lot of times people were afraid to give the diagnosis because they, you know, this feeling like they don't want to be the deliver of bad news for the family. And that may be going through difficult times already. But I I'm involved with a diagnostic program at work and, you know, I. I don't know, it's just because they're already in early intervention and they're getting services, but they really tend to be kind of glad to be getting a diagnosis finally so they understand what's going on and then they can help their child. So, yeah. So just now that professionals out there who might be listening, that's something you're involved with doing, is doing a diagnosis. Definitely. You know, it really is a help the families to get that information as soon as possible.

Mary: Yeah, yeah. I know in my book and I've done a video blog we can link in the show notes on the The Stat, the screening tool for autism and toddlers. And I know Brenda's been involved with her, with her day job with really spearheading a huge project that involves bringing developmental pediatricians out from necessarily just the teaching hospital in inner city to or the suburbs and trying to do stuff virtually and get families who are swimming around with two and three year olds to actually get the evaluation with. The waiting lists are just huge in most places. And I know Brenda's very much on on the same page with where all of my stuff is that we don't want to wait. We want to evaluate. We want to do helpful things with our kids even while we're waiting so that we can get them caught up in every area possible as caught up as possible. So how did you since we're going to really focus. I mean, we could spend a whole a whole show on on that project and the staff and all that stuff. But we're going to focus on on college. And because very few people have this kind of expertize. And so how did you get interested in learning more about the post high school programs, including college?

Brenda: I think it was probably from having children that are getting older, both neuro diverse individuals. My daughter really has a processing disorder. She never had an IEP. But, you know, we saw the challenges out when she got home. Then she would have a meltdown because she had eight hours of homework. She basically needed one hundred percent extended time. So she was really getting overwhelmed with the work. She's very detail oriented. So and then Brendon Brendon on the autism spectrum, also having some anxiety, OCD, some other issues like what's it going to look like? And trying to figure out what, you know, transition into high school with high school going to look like. And then after that, what's going to happen afterwards? I really didn't know for Brendon, is he going to be able to go to college? I had nothing to go on. There's nothing to go by. I couldn't find anything. And I'm like, I need to figure this out so that he has choices. And it brought this passion in the work that I do to help develop high school type transition from kind of a bridge to college where kids are staying overnight and they are able to experience staying overnight in the dorm, what it's like to wake up, wake themselves up, take a medication, get their shower, get to class. So it really was just me trying to figure things out, though. It was probably when they were like thirteen, fourteen years old.

Mary: Okay and you at some point became a certified college coach. Is that what you're considered?

Brenda: Yeah. You know, the credentialling, if you will, is there's no credentialing if you put it up next to a BCBA. So I had four days of training, but it was through Bank Street College. And there are very well educated, knowledgeable people who also took that course. I think it ran for about five years and they're twenty people in each cohort. And they were really looking to target the people in the office disability services at colleges, because every college has to have an office of disability services. But they're going to be different in every college. Yeah. So the fact that they're different, every college, the ones that were into this, we're taking this course so they knew how to better address the Autism population, the individuals coming in to meet their needs better. So I think that was really the key with that a lot. A lot of the participants, I think, were in Office of Disability Services.

Mary: OK, so every college needs an Office of Disability Services that because they get some funding. And so that's a requirement for years even before you were involved. Is that true?

Brenda: I can't speak to where the funding comes from. Every university is mandated to have an Office of Disability Services to probably fall under ABA. So. Yeah. When did that get established? I couldn't answer that, but yes, it was there before I started rolling with this and it's still there as a requirement.

Mary: Yeah, it's good to know. And I know personally, because I do know, you know, several kids, former clients and like my friend's son who are going to college. And and so I know that a lot of schools, in addition to having an Office of Disability Services, actually have programs specifically for kids on the Autism Spectrum, or students on the Autism Spectrum. So I think that's becoming more and more. So if you are listening out there and you have a child who's on the Autism Spectrum or has any kind of disability, like you mentioned, your daughter has processing problems. I know my nephew has. Dyslexia. And so it doesn't have to be Autism. It could be any kind of disability or learning difference. You should call or you and your child should call together or go meet with the Office of Disability Services to see if you can get extended extended testing time or private and help and tutoring and that sort of thing. And you would be able to speak to, like, all the kind of services that you could be eligible for. But before we get to that kind of thing, is it like not everybody listening and in fact, probably the majority of people listening, their kids aren't going to be able to go to a four year college? I know I interviewed Amy McFarlane recently. She's another behavior analyst with us on. And he he tried to go to a four year college. She didn't really think it was going to necessarily work out. And he ended up doing a two year college or transferring to a technical school. And there's not a four year college. Isn't the be all end all for for a lot of kids, even kids not on the spectrum, but can you kind of speak to like, you know, how do you know? Say you have a 12 year old or 15 year old or 18 year old like what should you be looking at to see? Like what? What should we do?

What it Actually Takes for Kids to "Survive College":

Brenda: Yeah, I know. I know. I hear you talking. It's like I want to talk about that. We talk about that. So much to talk about with so so yeah. So, you know, they're looking at schools and so forth and first thing would probably be seeing if they're even interested in going to college because you want to think about the whole college thing. Is college for them or is college really for you? Because if it's just the fact you want your kid to go to college and they don't necessarily want you or don't know or aren't really interested, you could be setting yourself up to spend money or have them in debt or have them just set them up for a bad time and feel bad about themselves when it really probably wasn't a good fit. So so the things that they looking for, things you can do is be looking at universities and colleges with your child to maybe see if that's something at all they're interested in. The Office of Disability Services would come after you apply, but you do want to be looking at those places, those universities that have those have good disability services. So the other things to be looking at, you know, the the things that are going to be challenging, you know, at the IQ, you know, IQ isn't really an issue because you think somebody can have an IQ of 100. I've worked with a student, would have had an IQ of like 140. And when he went off to a summer college program, he never went to the cafeteria. He lost like twenty pounds. So they need to have the life skills. So don't equate IQ with independence, that ability to have adaptive skills, you know, the the test that they do for adaptive skills, you need to consider those things. So, you know, if they're staying at home, that's a safe place and then going to college, you know, you don't have to worry about feeding laundry, cleaning up safety and all of that kind of thing. But if you're thinking of sending them off to a four year school that isn't close to home or is going to be a lot of independence, you're switching their whole world around. You're one hundred percent changing their environment the way they need to function. And that's a big step. And I just want to share statistics, if I agree, typical kids. This is a statistic from the National Clearinghouse for Education. That first semester, freshman, 30 percent, a third flunk, fail out or leave. So just know, out of all freshmen, this is a national statistic in the US. That 30, 33 percent around in there. Don't make it or they only stay for the first semester or don't make it through their first semester, so just keep that in mind.

Mary: And that's not even graduating in four years. That's just making it through the first semester. Wow.

Brenda: Right. Right. So those that make it through four years, only 40 percent, those that stay only 40 percent, make it in four years. The rest finish in five, six, seven years. So, yeah.

Mary: And those are sobering statistics. Boy, woo!

Brenda: Yes. That's why. Yeah. I mean, so even what I do, it helps typical families, families with other kids as well. Just because we don't know there's such a barrier between high school and college, they don't talk to each other. And just there is a lack of understanding. High school aren't really high school, doesn't necessarily prep kids for college and college doesn't understand the way high school functions. And, you know, once they leave public education, there's no more entitlement. It's eligibility and that changes everything.

Mary: I do have a follow up question about IQ. Those are really good statistics too, I had no idea about those. So you mentioned the boy you worked with who had a really high IQ. And I did a video blog on IQ and Autism, and we can link that in the show notes, because I think IQ a quote unquote "normal IQ" was 100. And so 140 is is a very gifted range. And then if you get 70 or below, that's considered intellectual disability. And, you know, is and a lot of listeners, because they're familiar with my first book, the Verbal Behavior Approach, and it's like most of my work centers around helping kids, either very young, one to five doesn't matter. They just have a speech delay or ADHD or what it's going to turn out to be. How severe it is, doesn't matter one to five year old and then the older kids. I tend to focus on the language ability of a one to five year old. So if you're 15 and have a language ability of a four year old, then you're going to also have an intellectual disability, whether or not it's diagnosed or not. But there is there are a lot of kids with a lot of scattered skills. And so it's confusing. They might have gotten an early IQ test that maybe was in the 60s or or 70s. And, you know, they may have improved with therapy and maybe got it up to 80 or whatever. But like, is there an Lucas's IQ has, as always, been pretty much in the 60s. So for him, language age, and self care. And, you know, it became apparent that Lucas is not going to be able to go to college like that became apparent at seven, eight, nine, ten. But for some kids, it really is hard to tell. Like I remember me being, ya know, running into an acquaintance, and I happened to have, you know, have worked with her son in the classroom and and he was in ninth grade. And she's like, can you know, I don't know what he's going to end up, you know, kind of like Brendon, like where is he going to go after high school? And I remember him being very scattered. So, like, you know, so I was just like, does he have an IQ score? Does he have academic achievement scores? Like because he is so scattered and she had no nothing and no information. But like is is that wise to tell people to get that information? Are there cut offs? Like if you have an IQ of 50, like you can't go to college or like, what are your thoughts about IQ on the low end?

Brenda: OK, so for me, I had a real problem with IQ testing in general, I would say. So how do you reconcile that doesn't have language to be tested for their intelligence when it's language based. So, Right. Just for me, you know, and I have a whole thing that we probably don't have time to talk to and that others believe in that we have that medical model, but we really need to move into a social model, which is another story and another show. So..

Mary: You could become a regular guest.

Brenda: Yes, exactly. But I really think a big part of it and I know for Brendon and I've gotten permission to talk about Brendon, Brendon had he is kind of you know, his neurodiversity really is. So he has Autism. Then he got an ADHD diagnosis. Well, i'm sorry, ADD diagnosis. So that was obviously the Autism is a 3. The ADHD was 13-14. So he has attention deficit. He's not really that hyper and then so that's a scattered mess, and then along 17, he got the Anxiety/OCD diagnosis. So every time there's a recurring occurring condition, it can slightly change the way the diagnosis looks. So for Brendon, he also has dyslexia. So we finally found all these different pieces. But you know what? He's a whole person. And I spent so much time thinking I never got to go to college and and be able to live independently and all that because I didn't have anything else to base it on. That's what happens to kids with autism. Back in our day, that's 20 years ago, kind of what the belief was. But the idea that if they have the ability to live independently, I think if that's really where you want to want to consider it and it really is based on the program. So there are a lot of programs popping up out there, comprehensive transition programs, they're what they're called, ya know everyone's different, but one for Brendon. He lives independently on campus. He he has his own dorm room. He he gets them, gets himself up, gets a shower to go get breakfast. Hey, I need an hour before class. He knows what he needs, gets the class as all all of the things he needs. He has a coach, so he has a coach that helps them with looking over what he's got due, what is syllabus is, what he's got to due for the week. So How is he going to tackle this that and the other. So that works for him. So I think the level of independence is a variable. So every student's different, for Brendon he can participate in college courses. He took anthropology, he's in applied engineering. And, you know, for him, he has trouble with processing and the Dyslexia. So taking tests, he would probably would have flunked out first semester. So he is on their track for a four year certificate. So he is still taking the test, still doing the same project and everything. But he doesn't get a grade. So he will get a certificate for the full year. And the big thing he wanted me to ask was, do you really think my piece of paper is different than somebody else's piece of paper who took all the tests and everything? So so if it's something you're interested in and engaged in, you're going to learn it. If you just memorize it, study it and spit it back out on a test, what's the difference? So I think a big part of the difference is interest, do they want to do this or do they want to be involved? Do they want to be there? Are they able to be independent to a certain extent? I think those are all all key pieces.

Mary: Right. And, you know, even for kids like Lucas, who, you know, don't have the ability to even stay at home for an hour while I run to the store, need 24/7 care. That doesn't mean that, you know, the bus stop coming at 21 and he's going to sit around with no help or service or opportunities either, so I mean, that's a whole nother thing. I do want to focus on college, but that, you know, this whole conversation, I think is good because it's like there's no race to the finish line. It's all different for all kids, whether they have Autism or not. You know, there are programs and Brendon's in a program where it's it's not a four year degree, but he's going to a four year college and he's working on transitional skills and independent skills and studying and taking classes. But there's not that pressure like you've got to have. I'm sure he doesn't take like 16 credits per semester and that sort of thing. Like, it's like, OK, so it's less so even kids that are in college. So let's talk about, like, your college coaching business when you go in to support a child. Well, an adult in college, a college student. What kind of things? Just like think about your top two kind of profiles of how you are or how a college coach could help.

The Importance of a College Coach for Individuals with Autism:

Brenda: Sure. Sure. So I. I really think it's good for me to, first off, connect with them and say, look, I'm not going to judge. I'm not here to judge you or put any extra pressure on you. But what do you think about college? Where do you want to be? What do you want to do? And just trying to make that personal connection, pairing with them, obviously also wanting to really kind of get a handle on their executive function skills. When you go to college with needing accommodations from the Office of Disability Services, I might ask for the same testing so I can look at that and I can say, OK, he needs 100 percent extended time. They did the brief, which is an assessment for executive function. I can see his working memory really well. I can see what those skills look like and executive function is really a big part of it. Being able to, I've had training in executive function. Yes, I've had the Autism college coach, but I've also had collective coaching training. I've also had executive function training. I do executive function training, but being able to connect the pieces to understand where it is, where the weaknesses are, what their strengths are, and being able to use their strengths to help support those weaknesses is key and trying to get them into a system that they're comfortable with. And the key piece about coaching is they're really you're turning the responsibility over to that. I'm not writing down a list and say, here, make sure you do this for next time. They're making their list. OK, what? So you ask questions. What worked the last time? How did you do this last time? Did you keep a schedule? Did you make a list and ask them what work they draw blank? Then it's like, can I make a suggestion? And then they get to pick from their suggestions. So this is causing them to be internalizing this information, developing the agency they need in order to be successful. Now, can I promise you that coaching is going to make them successful? I can't promise that. But that support is there and executive functions can be learned. There is more coming out all the time about executive functions. They can be learned and if the student is motivated to do it. I'll tell you, a student that that had of getting a C minus and D in his class, he had grit, man, let me tell you, he had grit when you told him. And he's like, I'm going to pass the class. And he he was determined and we work and he got a better grade. So that grit is a big piece, too. So what I do is I do those kinds of things. I might give them a break if I might. Know. It really depends. I do value definitely up front. What are your values? Because if they're telling the money, wealth and success, we're going to have a tough time. So, you know, if it's honesty and family, you know, different things in a more typical things, you know, we can work those values in while we're doing this so that you can have a successful career, so that you can have your independence. And, you know, if they want to have a family so you can have a family, you have your own. So trying to pull in that agency and what they want to be. And it's tough because, you know, with Autism, we know it's a developmental delay. So, you know, maturity takes a little time, takes a little longer to cook. So thinking about family or something like that might be tough, but finding out what's motivating them and helping that pull them through, what they need to do to motivate them is important.

Mary: Yeah, and the Office of Disability Rights, they do also, you know, can connect students to tutoring or writing help or whatever, but a lot of college students on the spectrum might have those executive functioning problems that they can't coordinate or like they don't think it's worth it to go to another person. It's too overwhelming, I would think. And so so part of the role and there's not like a ton of college coaches around, like now we're going to you know, there are parents out there that are going to have to kind of take the role of almost the coach. Do you recommend that? Is that a bad idea or....

Brenda: Well, I think I think the thing to be thinking about there, I'm not opposed to that. I know people who have done that, thank God for Zoom, totally makes it possible. But at some point in time, you know as a parent, you need to kind of think about yourself and your well-being. And also, it's so true, they're going to be more responsive to somebody other than a parent. They are not going to look stupid. They're going to want to be on the ball that you have a good rapport. They're going to want to do well for that person. Really having a separate relationship with someone else is really beneficial. It really makes it, it really kind of cuts it into, oh, I am really starting to develop my independence here. I've got to work with this person and I have to be responsible. So they have to meet with me. I may say let's have three check-ins this week. Check in with me Monday, Wednesday, Friday, let me know if you did this, that or the other. I may have something I have assigned them to do to be checking in with me. And if they don't do those check-ins and again, I'm not again, it's not about you didn't do it. It's about OK, we agreed on three check-ins. So tell me what happened. You know what happened? What happened? Did you just forget? OK, all right. Well, let's try something else. What do you think would work instead? Oh, you want to write it in your agenda book? That's a great idea. Let's do that. Let's try that. So they usually come around to the things that they've been beaten over the head with in high school to use or they have another way. Maybe they're going to put a Post-it on the bathroom mirror to do something because they're going to brush their teeth or whatever and they're going to see it. That's going to prompt them do it. So it's about them coming up with the ideas and then coming up with strategies.

Mary: So, yeah, wow. There's seems like there's a lot, are there are any books on the subject of like how to get a kid to go to college? like independently? Successfully? I know there's like a executive functioning books and that sort of thing, but it seems like there's a lot of information like how do people even start the process?

Brenda: Yeah, there are books that are like how to go to college with a learning disability or something like that that talks about switching from IBEA to ABA and Intelligence versus eligibility and what you need to advocate for because please, no, there's no specially designed instruction in college. They're not going to reduce the number of questions. They're not going to adjust anything. You can just add add things like extra time on tests, note takers, things like that. So it's completely different.

Mary: This is great information. So and then there are other options. There's there's community colleges, there's technical schools, there's vo-tech, apprenticeship. Yeah. Just working. You know, even that for for many kids is such a challenge. And it sounds like what you're describing with, you know, asking them what their goals are and values and, OK, that didn't work out this week. What do you want to try next week? Here's some suggestions. I mean, it sounds like your role as a behavioral analyst, really. This is yet another tool and and breaking things down and and having goals. And so, you know, I think there are a lot of behavior analysts, but not necessarily working with kids that are high enough functioning to go to college. Plus, who's going to pay for it? I'm sure at twenty one that becomes a big issue. How is this stuff funded? I am, we have listeners from over 80 countries, so we can't get too specific about the United States or a specific state. But in general, is there ever funding for college or these transitional programs or vo-tech after 21?

Programs and Funding for Individuals with Autism:

Brenda: So the Comprehensive Transition Program, they're called. At least that's what it was when we started four years ago for Brendon, they actually, a program considered a Comprehensive Transition Program, can actually you can apply for a student loan just like you can for any other college program. So that is becoming more and more widespread. If you are interested in checking out colleges. And this is a range of colleges, because there's another college in Pennsylvania that I know of that has a different program. But it's for it's I'm not sure it's a Comprehensive Transition Program, but it is a program for individuals with Autism that I have, I think, a little more behavioral challenges and so forth. But whatever the program, the if it's a Comprehensive Transition Program, they can apply that way. They can get college loan funding, other types of funding...I am blessed with the state that I live in, has a wonderful waiver program. My son get his waiver to pay part of his program, OVR, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation is also paying for part of his program. So OVR will and you have to make it in the frame of employment that they need to go to school to do what he wants for whatever the individual wants to do. They need to get an education and a college degree or whatever degree to be able to be successful and be employed so that OVR will pay for it. Other things to think about. I know in my my area and some places have talked about technical schools, CTE programs, they are becoming more and more prevalent and less and less as we know them, VO-Tech. They are getting kids their licenses before they when they leave high school. They can be like the NATE exam. They can take the NATE exam and be ready to go off and do HVAC and fix air conditioners and they make good money. So there's lots of ways of looking at things. But other than that, you know, private funding, I have looked into OVR, being a provider through OVR. But that would just be like in the state of Pennsylvania. I don't know where it would work otherwise. Yeah, but you have the funding.

Mary: Then there is some private pay situation, like in your situation. And then one other thing I thought we would I would mention is that in the United States, at least age 14 is the time in IDA when high schools are required to start planning for that post high school transition.

Brenda: It's 16 nationally. It's 14 in Pennsylvania.

Mary: Oh, thank you. Thank you. So there is a transition age. And so that's another really good thing to point out is but even if you have a 12 year old with an IEP, you could start asking, start talking about it. But at age 14 or 16, whatever your state is, the transition age, that's when you could begin to explore VO-Tech. You could begin to explore, like Lucas went to a restaurant, started volunteering there with an aid and a behavioral therapist as part of his school day, bussed there by the school, to see does he enjoy it? Is it safe? Is it something that is a good fit? He went to a hotel and did laundry. So in Brendon's situation, he went as part of high school to maybe a program that could explore HVAC or something else, you know what I mean? Like there's summer programs. There's there's programs during the school year. And if you are in school in the United States, then those kind of explorations would often be covered almost always by the school district to explore that post high school trade or volunteer or programing. Yeah, so I did want to mention that. And so even in the United States, again, school can go till twenty one. So you could even potentially, you know, you would need to to maybe get an advocate or read more, but you could possibly have your child be done with high school at eighteen, start community college, maybe that could be paid for under your school district as long as they don't graduate graduate when they're eighteen. So there are different funding streams, depending on where you are in the world to look at. So I think. I learned a ton here, I'm I'm hoping that listeners did, too. So a couple questions before we wrap up first, how can people you also do some life coaching that doesn't even have to do with Autism or learning disabilities. But I know that the listeners here will be most interested to hear you. You know, your thoughts on executive functioning and colleges and post high school. So where can they find you, Brenda?

Where to Find Brenda Eaton:

Brenda: So I have a website at Brenda Eaton that life. So there is where you can find me and kind of talk about my perspective. I have gone on to get other interesting training like acceptance and commitment therapy. And I also like, yeah, positive behavior. I'm sorry not poistive behavior, but positive psychology, which is really about health and wellbeing and really trying to bring that into practice with professionals, parents, everyone with the kids, everyone. So just really wanting quality of life for everybody. Like, we need to stop judging and, you know, being so hard on ourselves and hard on others around us and really want to provide opportunity. A lot of what I do during the day is social, emotional learning, providing those training to schools and working with students to be bringing that kind of resilience, helping them with resilience is a big part of what my goal is with that. So whether it's school district, administrative, teacher, or parent, or an individual, you know, people say you should focus, but my focus is what I do and it applies to everybody. So, yeah.

Mary: I agree. So, Brenda Eaton, e-a-t-o-n, Dot Life is Brenda's website, which leads us perfectly into the last question. Part of my podcast goals are not to just help the kids, but for parents and professionals listening to be less stressed and lead happier lives. So with all of your background, do you have any self care advice or stress reduction tips?

Brenda: Yes. So I, I think what is really important, just because as human beings, we have a negativity bias, it's just because of the way we are. We always focus on what's wrong instead of what's right. And it's been tough this past past year. So I think it's really important. And science shows that thinking of things you're grateful for so you can focus on the things that are problems but don't ruminate about them. All we have is now and being present in the moment. So having a mindful moment, thinking about the things that you're grateful for, even towards the end of the day, is, I think the best strategy you can have. And they say if you do that for a week, Martin Seligman, who is like the guru on positive psychology, you can have increased happiness and well-being up to six months. So I think that's really a wonderful strategy. I also want to say that if anybody wants more information on any of the services or particularly a college, I'm going to have something up at Brenda Eaton dot life slash ready. So we'll have that information there that you can get that and we can get you connected with more information if you like.

Mary: Good. So you're going to have something up on your website to talk more about getting ready for college or proposed high school transitioning, so that'll be a Brenda eaton dot life forward slash ready. Yeah. All right. Awesome. So I loved this talk. I learned a lot and hopefully it's helped a lot of our listeners out there. And we usually we do a lot of talks for parents of younger kids and professionals. But we do have you know, our kids are always getting older and we need to continue to help kids as they grow into adults, whether they have autism or not. And this is a great way to share a wealth of information. So thanks so much for joining us.

Brenda: Thank you so much, Mary.

Mary: If you're a parent or an Autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at Mary Barbera Dot com forward slash workshop where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism. And you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again, go to Mary Barbera dot Com forward slash workshop for all the details. I hope to see you there.