Autism is a developmental disorder that doesn't go away when a child reaches adulthood. Unfortunately, due to federal laws, autistic children and their parents grow accustomed to services provided by the public school system that go away when the child turns 21. NBC News' Kate Snow writes, "Parents of children facing this situation compare it to falling off a cliff."
When delivering services to a child with autism, structure and routine are often stressed.
This presents service providers with a unique challenge. Children with autism excel when they receive the instruction, therapy, and daily care they need in a familiar, engaging, and consistent manner that varies from child to child. These services work best when they are carried over from the provider's environment to the child's home environment. Parents and providers become a co-dependent team focused on each child's unique needs. Changes to routines or processes are foreshadowed well in advance whenever possible.
The biggest change, however, is one that can be terribly unpredictable. In many areas, school-provided services stop long before county-provided services begin, if county-provided services exist at all. Many counties have waiting lists that stretch forward for years, and in some cases those lists clock in well past the next decade.
Current service providers can foreshadow the loss of services, but they can't foreshadow what will come next for their students. Parents are often ill-prepared to take on the responsibilities of all the instruction, therapy, and daily cares their children need. Those children--now adults--have little experience of life without these essential services. There is no easy solution for providers who want to make this heart-wrenching transition easier on the students and their families.
If you are one of those special providers who can and will help families navigate the cliff that looms between childhood and adulthood for individuals with autism, we want you to contact us. There is work to do and you can help.
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