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Clinical and Research Training through Transitioning Together (TT) and Working Together (WT) programs for Adolescents with ASD

Briefly describe the activity and its purpose.

While the transition to adulthood is extremely stressful for families of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), there are few evidence-based interventions available for families. The Transitioning Together (TT) and Working Together (WT) programs aim to fill that gap and provide families with high-quality interventions that can assist in educating and supporting families throughout this transition.

The Transitioning Together (TT) program is a support and education program for families of adolescents (ages 14-21) with ASD. The goals of the program are to reduce family stress, improve social and problem-solving skills, and provide resources for families regarding transition to adulthood. Topics within this program include: ASD in adulthood, employment planning, educational planning, problem solving, family topics, risks to adulthood, community involvement, legal issues, and health and well-being.

The Working Together (WT) program is an extension of the TT program, and targets families of young adults (ages 18-30) with autism. The goals of WT are to promote social and self-advocacy skills, increase engagement in educational and employment activities, and provide resources to families. Topics include: goal setting, problem solving, coping strategies, planning for independence, employment, community and relationships, personal safety, and health and well-being.

Both programs were developed by Dr. Leann DaWalt and her team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Rebekah Hudock and her team at the University of Minnesota collaborate with Dr. DaWalt's team to examine the effectiveness of these interventions within a clinical setting. Dr. Dawalt and Dr. Hudock are LEND faculty at their institutions, and offer several opportunities for LEND trainees to get involved with these programs. We are thrilled to be partnering in order to offer these programs in the Midwest! Dr. Dawalt's team has also trained several other groups on these interventions across the country.

What are the expected learning outcomes for trainees?

LEND trainees participate in these programs in a variety of ways. LEND fellows develop and hone research skills when they participate in the development and evaluation of these programs by contributing data collection, data analysis, and presentation of results at professional meetings. Trainees also participate in TT and WT in order to learn therapeutic clinical skills and to gain knowledge of local transition resources. LEND fellows from a variety of disciplines participate in these programs, including psychology, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social work, special education, and dentistry. Parents of children with disabilities and self-advocates also participate regularly. Trainees can fulfill their clinical hours through this program, and they can also complete their final projects using data from our studies.

Briefly describe the positive impacts this activity has had on trainees.

Many LEND trainees have not had the opportunity to receive clinical experience or participate in clinical research. Those who have worked with families of individuals with ASD in the past have primarily worked with children, thus, working with adolescents and young adults provides a new area of knowledge and experience. Trainees have the opportunity to learn about local transition resources, and they are able to learn about these resources directly from community members and agencies with expertise in supporting families through the transition process. They also gain familiarity working with adolescents with ASD and their parents, and are able to learn about the challenges associated with the transition to adulthood directly from families experiencing it. Trainees appreciate learning in-depth about families' experiences, and seeing families gain the confidence and problem-solving skills needed to take action in planning for their adolescent's transition. Many trainees are able to directly apply their newfound knowledge on transition into supporting families within their own disciplines.

Briefly describe any lessons learned or challenges associated with implementing this activity.

Due to varied backgrounds and disciplines, some trainees have some difficulty effectively learning and implementing clinical skills. However, we have been successful in having trainees participate meaningfully to the facilitation of the programs, regardless of previous clinical experience. Scheduling can be challenging for many LEND trainees. These programs run for 9-13 weeks in the evenings from 5:30-7 pm, with supervision before and after. While TT and WT are relatively brief clinical interventions, many trainees who would like to participate in the implementation of the interventions have difficulty committing to attending the majority of sessions due to scheduling conflicts. Research activities often provide more flexibility in scheduling, and many trainees are able to participate in various components. We have found that trainees with previous research training and experience tend to do best in research activities.


Leann DaWalt, PhD
[email protected]
Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin

Rebekah Hudock, PhD
[email protected]
MNLEND, ICI, University of Minnesota


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