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Thursday, April 21, 2011

MacNeil on Autism into Adulthood

Robert MacNeil notes that IDEA does not help adults:

Earlier posts (here and here) have quoted Peter Gerhardt:
ROBERT MACNEIL: Peter Gerhardt is a nationally known expert on adolescents and adults with autism. He directs the program for teenagers at the McCarton School in New York.

Gerhardt considers the disabilities education law basically a civil rights issue for children but not so far for adults.

PETER GERHARDT: After the age of 21, there's very little. It's more a - we're going to provide services if we have the money and if you fit into this service. So more and more we're seeing kids, you know, graduate out of high school to nothing. They go onto waiting lists, they sit at home.

ROBERT MACNEIL: Gerhardt says there is a critical shortage of people who can work with adults with autism.

PETER GERHARDT: First of all, they need -- staff people who understand the needs of adults. They need trained people who can work with them. And in almost every state of the union, the credentials to work with adults with autism: high-school diploma, driver's license and a criminal background check.

ROBERT MACNEIL: And paid what?

PETER GERHARDT: And paid just above minimum wage usually. Maybe $8, $10 an hour. It is not considered a career choice. Nobody goes into the field of adult services looking at it as a career.

ROBERT MACNEIL: Gerhardt wants society to become as comfortable with the needs of adults with autism as it has with the physically disabled.

PETER GERHARDT: Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we've seen significant changes in our environment. We see handicapped parking spaces, and we see ramps into buildings, and we see handicapped bathroom stalls. And we see all these things that didn't exist, you know, 10, 15 years ago. As a society, we've gotten very comfortable with the idea of accommodations for people with physical disabilities. We now sort of get that. For people with neurological challenges, however, we're still at a loss about how to accommodate.