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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Life with Autism

Chicago's WLS reports on one family's struggle:

The Hartford Courant reports on adults on the spectrum:

Things have improved for younger people diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Today, federal law requires that children with disabilities receive special education services until they graduate with a diploma or turn 21, said George Dowaliby, a manager in the Bureau of Special Education in the state Department of Education. As part of those services, school districts must also identify and provide transitional services, he said.

"This has to begin by the youngster's 16th birthday and can and often does begin earlier," Dowaliby said. This is "to help prepare the student for post-public school education, employment, post secondary goals," he said.

The gap continues, however, Dowaliby said, noting that once a child who has autism but does not have mental retardation graduates or is older than 21, there is a dropoff of available services.

What the state does offer is the program that Patrick Walsh is part of. Serving about 50 people from the New Haven and Hartford areas, the program provides life skills, job coaching, job development and mentoring.

It does not offer supportive housing for adults with autism, a spokeswoman from the department of developomental services said. And, perhaps more unfortunately, there are no plans to expand it beyond its 50 or so clients.

Those not accepted into the Department of Developmental Services' program can apply for employment help through the Bureau of Rehabilitative Services, an arm of the Department of Social Services. "We look at their skills and abilities, their interests and the challenges that they might face," said Torrey Morse.

Going to work is challenging for people on the autism spectrum, she said. "It's a growing population in Connecticut and across the nation, and as an agency we are trying to learn what we can about this population."