Education plays a big role in building your future and preventing social exclusion. It is important to recognize the things that you are good at and that you have enough motivation, capacity and skills to do. The best way to guarantee succeed with your studies is to use your best abilities and personal strengths and build your future plans on them.
It is worth keeping in mind that the situation is different for every young person. Some need a lot of support with their studies, whereas others can cope fully independently. A good self-knowledge, discovering your strengths, having the right study arrangements and obtaining support from others help you pursue and finish your studies and start living your life.
As you go on to study in general upper secondary school, vocational school or an institute of higher education, your parents and teachers will have less control over your studies and your learning environment will be less structured. At the same time, you will also face greater demands related to self-direction, such as the independent planning and scheduling of studies and tasks and making choices and decisions concerning your future. Studying requires a more independent and active approach and the strength to obtain the support you need.
Starting your studies in a new city often also means you need to move to a new environment. In addition to meeting the academic requirements of the degree, you need to know how to cook, clean and pay your bills, among other things. Social skills are also important when you are settling in a new environment.
“You can easily drop out of further studies if you don’t have any support for moving from place to place, making sense of the facilities and schedules and understanding the instructions for assignments.”
As you go on to further studies, it is often necessary to create a structure together or have one provided by the school. Concrete support for studying and daily activities is also helpful. A safe learning environment and clear structures and measures of support for studies benefit all students. It is of vital importance that the home and the educational institution, as well as any other rehabilitative network there may be, stand by the young person and support their growth, learning and ability to make decisions concerning their life. Many young students with ASD are constantly at risk of reaching their limit, especially if there is no autism awareness or adequate support available.
A successful transition requires planning of further studies
The new legislative reform extended compulsory education until the age of 18. The aim is for every young person who finishes comprehensive school to complete upper secondary education. The obligation to apply entered into force on 1 January 2021. The reform created pressure and new responsibilities to strengthen the support in the transition phase and to reform study programmes. The importance of communication and cooperation has become even greater.
The website of the Ministry of Education and Culture contains questions and answers related to the extension of compulsory education.
It is important to plan your upper secondary education well in advance before finishing comprehensive school. Support is often necessary to create a plan for the future that is realistic and matches your abilities. You should keep in mind that many young people with ASD are 2–3 years behind their fellow students in terms of their social and emotional development.
You should therefore build the study path based on personal skills, assets and resources. At the same time, it is important to recognize and tap any hidden growth potential. Cooperation and information exchange between home, the upper level of comprehensive school and the upper secondary school play a crucial role in the transitional phase.
Good practices for when you are looking for your path to studies can be found in the Vetovoimala guidance model (in Finnish). In addition, the website Studentum.fi can help you choose the field of study that suits you best by taking a career test, for example.
“Every young person deserves to be seen as who they are and to receive education in accordance with their needs and capabilities.”
It is important to be personally involved in researching various study options and planning your path to further studies. A knowledge of the upper secondary education options creates a basis for planning the transitional phase individually. Often simply knowing about the different options is not enough to give you an accurate idea of what studying a particular field means and what kind of jobs it could lead to. That is why informative events, visits and education trials at educational institutions in the field can give you practical experience of studying and the jobs in the field and an idea of how well the field suits you.
You can use various assessment tools to identify your strengths and assess your functional capacity
Spiral – method to help identify needs for change and set goals
Abilitator – self-assessment method for examining your situation, main strengths and development needs
Toimintakykyarvio.fi – a tool designed to describe your functional capacity needs. The goal is to come up with a shared view of a pupil’s functional capacity from the perspective of the pupil, the guardian and professionals. The information concerning the functional capacity can also be transferred to an upper secondary school so that the pupil receives adequate support right from the start of their studies.
CREAR – assessment tool that helps you figure out where you stand in different aspects of your life. You will acquire information that will guide you to advance towards the future needs in your life.
Ruori – assessment tool that allows you to assess your need for special and intensive special support in your studies together with experts. Contains self-assessment, the RUORI game, an assessment for experts and a consultation discussion form.
Feelings of inclusion increase motivation
You have more strength to pursue a meaningful goal and work hard to achieve something that matters to you once you know the concrete benefits of completing a degree. It is more likely that you will find your ideal place to study if you are involved and take part in making decisions from the start. Feelings of inclusion increase motivation and enable essential anticipation and preparation. Even so, you should also be prepared for a scenario where you will not be informed of a new study place early enough to plan the transition with careful precision.
“The fact that I have abilities and a thirst for knowledge and that I’m somehow moving forward and achieving something that matters to me is important. Once again, I know a bit more.”
For the sake of study progress, it is important to practice skills that help you, for example, schedule your studies and stick to the schedules, create a realistic study plan and discover your strengths. Finding the right rhythm for your studies and free time and making time for looking after your needs and relaxation are essential skills.
Going on to further studies is a transitional phase in your schooling path and requires a command of many new skills. This is an exciting phase full of new things for all young people – let alone someone on the spectrum. The need to practice anticipation and skills is crucial in this phase as well.
Preparatory education as an option after comprehensive school
If necessary, you can continue improving the knowledge and skills you acquired in comprehensive school in transitional education, such as tenth grade (voluntary additional basic education), VALMA, TELMA, LUVA or the long study programmes of folk high schools.
Tenth grade and the preparatory training for general upper secondary education and preparatory education for vocational training will be combined on 1 August 2022 into a single transitional entity. This new preparatory education for programmes leading to an upper secondary qualification is known by its Finnish abbreviation TUVA. Folk high schools are also included in the transitional entity.
Following comprehensive school, many young people with ASD are still too young and immature to make decisions about their professional future. That is why additional basic education or preparatory education may be a good option. By pursuing one of the above options, the young person can gain some extra time to plan their future and career choice while improving their life management and study skills.
Applying to upper secondary education
Upper secondary education refers to studies in a general upper secondary school or a vocational school leading either to a matriculation examination or a vocational upper secondary qualification. Pupils apply to upper secondary education primarily in 9th grade in the joint application that starts in February. More details and application instructions for general upper secondary education and vocational education can be found in the Studyinfo.fi service of the Finnish National Agency for Education.
You can also apply to vocational institutions through continuous admission, which means you can apply to study programmes flexibly all year round. More information about the application periods, application procedures and selection criteria is available from the educational institutions. Information about vocational special education institutions and the vocational special needs education they provide can be found at Ameo.fi.
Jobmarket’s website Professional Information and Ammattiosaaja.fi by the Ministry of Education and Culture and Skills Finland provide support for choosing a vocation and career planning. These websites allow you to learn more about different professions and descriptions of professional fields and to read career stories. The TE Office’s AVO career choice programme is a self-assessment tool that helps you think about your goals more thoroughly and find which professions match them.
Applying to higher education
After upper secondary education, you have the opportunity to apply to a university or a university of applied sciences (UAS) through the joint application to higher education. More information about the degree options provided by universities and UAS’s and the content of higher education studies can be found on the websites of the universities and UAS’s and in the Studyinfo.fi service and the joint website of universities of applied sciences, UASinfo.fi.
Joint application takes place in spring and autumn. Most study programmes are applied to in the spring round of the joint application procedure. It is also possible to start studying in a university or UAS through the open path. The open path refers to studies in an Open University or Open UAS, which you can complete to apply to pursue a degree at the university or UAS. More information about the open path is available in the Studyinfo service: Open Studies.
“I could’ve used support with planning my studies, such as what to study, when to study and what to choose.” A young person with ASD talks about their experiences as they began their university studies.
What obstacles do students with ASD face in their studies?
Lack of appropriate support
- Poor information transfer and cooperation during the transition
- Confusion as to who to turn to if you need support, lack of personal support or reasonable adjustments
- Misunderstanding the level of functional capacity and overlooking the differences between areas of functional capacity
- A focus on the functional impairments, rather than the strengths or existing coping mechanisms
The social and physical environment
- Participation in group work or giving presentations in front of others
- Sensory input in the study environment, such as background noise, lighting or crowding
- Difficulty navigating the buildings and facilities
- Social isolation in the place of study
- Lack of a clear understanding of what studying is really like
- Lack of a clear understanding of the content of the study subjects and courses
- Too high expectations for own performance or that of others
Challenges concerning assignments (even when mastering the subject matter)
- Not fully understanding ambiguous and open assignment briefs
- Lack of understanding why something needs to be done
- Difficulty planning and revising own work
- Lack of study strategies that are suitable for students
- Uncertainty about the time it should take to complete a given assignment
Transitioning to adult life requires more effort than it would for the average student
- Moving away from your childhood home to live on your own
- Time management and establishing new routines
- Advocating for yourself
(The Autism&Uni guide has been used as a source)
Many of these challenges are familiar to all new students. However, most students adapt to the new study environment fairly quickly and find friends to support them. As for young people with ASD, these challenges can predispose them to stress and lead to isolation and depression or even cause them to drop out of school completely.
Students who receive suitable and adequate support often succeed in their studies and enjoy them. They have particular strengths, such as strong dedication and focus on their chosen study subject, attention to detail, adherence to rules, a high work ethic and a propensity to logical and rational thinking. These qualities are useful not only to the individual, but also to wider society.
What kind of teaching arrangements support learning?
Connecting with and encouraging the student and creating a positive atmosphere are key ways to support studying. A good learning environment takes different learning styles into consideration, in addition to a varied range of sensory channels. Students should find out which way of learning works best for them. Taking the overall situation of the student into consideration and bringing in life guidance to support studying will help the student succeed and complete their studies.
Some young people with ASD need individual guidance, for example from a special needs teacher, a guidance counsellor or a school social worker, whereas others will benefit from instruction in small groups or work-oriented instruction. Individual and group support and concrete guidance that seeks to find solutions to everyday issues can be crucial. Student welfare support can also help students along the way. For example, neuropsychiatric coaching and KELA’s rehabilitations, such as NUOTTI coaching and Oma Väylä (“My Way”) rehabilitation can be useful forms of support to help make progress in your studies.
Accessibility makes studying easier
Higher education and other educational institutions aim for an accessible study environment and accessibility in studies. This means taking the needs of different special needs groups into consideration in instruction. Everyone has the right to receive education and learn according to their abilities.
If you have special issues related to studying or the progress of your studies, you can obtain counselling and support according to the practices of the school or higher education institution. Individual support includes guidance counselling and student welfare services, such as the services of school social workers, study psychologists and the student health service. All students who need special support have the opportunity to obtain personal counselling throughout their studies and individual support (such as their own, peaceful place to study, extra time or assistive devices when they need them) in learning situations.
“Accessibility in attitudes means an awareness of the invisible obstacles”
Schools and higher education institutions have a designated person or unit that is responsible for the accessibility of student admissions and studies and provides more information about the institution’s accessibility policy, whenever needed. During counselling related to the application procedure in particular, it is important for students to inquire about the available support during the application procedure and entrance exam and later at the start of studies. You should inform the educational institution about any obstacles and needs as early as possible so that the necessary support can be arranged. The practices of accessibility in studies and learning support are described at studyinfo.fi.
Have the following solutions been applied to support your studies?
- Alternative ways to complete group work or oral presentations
- Individual pace of study
- Extra time and a separate room, if you need one, for tests or exams
- Possibility to obtain support for clarifying test or exam questions or assignment briefs
- Possibility to receive teaching or lecture materials in advance
- Possibility to record instruction or lectures
- Possibility to use assistive devices to manage the sensory input (caps and hoods, sunglasses, headphones or stress toys)
- Possibility to receive help and support from a special needs teacher or a tutor, for example
- Versatile, multichannel ways to deal with the topic under study
- Maps and written instructions or other extra support, whenever needed
- Possibility to leave the teaching session to avoid becoming overwhelmed without fearing criticism or stigmatization
- Taking the student’s learning style into consideration and looking for suitable study strategies
There is a wide variety of low-threshold services for young people in most cities and at least in the biggest municipalities. You can use the services if you need support with things such as studying, life management and planning the future. Find out more about the services in your area.
KELA’s rehabilitation for young people that does not require a medical certificate:
- NUOTTI coaching: a personal coach helps you plan your future
- Vocational rehabilitation assessment: support for clarifying your life situation and planning rehabilitation
- Vocational rehabilitation supporting the integration into work: support for choosing an occupation or a field of study or finding a job or employment
- Training try-out: making sure that the professional field, studies and place of study is suitable for you