One of the primary goals of any early intervention or therapy program for a child diagnosed on the Autism spectrum is to promote independence, integrate the child into a classroom if possible and fade out the program systematically. While the fading out of any intervention program is a tremendous achievement for the child, the educators and the parents, it can at the same time be a daunting prospect for parents who are left with a child, teenager or adult with Autism without the support they had been depending on.
It is estimated that in the next decade, 800,000 children on the Autism spectrum will enter adulthood in need of some form of support services. It is important to remember that Autism is labeled a "spectrum" disorder because of the wide range of symptoms and variety of people diagnosed. Some adults with Autism may not require full support, if any, and can be hired for high-level jobs, such as a lab assistant. Other people on the spectrum, depending on their language and communication skills, may work in the retails or service industry.
The PBS documentary "Autism: Coming of Age" tracks 3 adults on the Autism spectrum and how their families and schools have facilitated acquiring employment and support in adulthood. A key point made in the documentary was to pinpoint an individual's strengths in order to find a good match in job placement. For example, one person profiled in the documentary had an affinity for vacuum cleaners and was very social and friendly, therefore, he was placed in a job at a hotel as part of the housekeeping staff.
While some of these jobs may not seem glamorous, it is important to recognize the progress that these individuals have made, from childhood into adulthood, and the independence achieved as a result. The fact that someone who had poor communication skills and aggressive behaviors as a child can now take 2 buses to work on his own and work a full 12 hour shift is an extraordinary testament to that individual's growth.
Many forms of support exist for those with special needs, such as placement programs and residential programs. Autism Speaks offers a "Transition Tool Kit" in order to make that leap from childhood into adulthood more seamless. Maintaining a person on the Autism spectrum's dignity, safety and independence into adulthood is of utmost importance, as well as recognizing that they do have a lot to contribute to society.
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Information on St Lawrence County "Transitions" program is available online http://www.slnysarc.org/slnysarc_transitions_brochure.pdf
Join Dr. Claire Richardson , OTR/L, OTD, November 21st at the New Testament Church in Massena 6pm - 8pm as she presents information on Transition services.