Schools across the state have programs for kids with autism starting as young as 3 and going as far as 26, depending on their needs.
But that support ends once they are out of school. Most of those aging into adulthood will find an alarming lack of services designed to help transition into the next stage of their lives. An estimated 500,000 kids in the U.S. with autism will turn 18 within the next five years -- more than 5,000 of them in Michigan.
"It's like falling off a cliff," said Kathy Sweeney, director of OUCARES, the Oakland University Center for Autism Research, Education and Support.
Without continued assistance into adulthood, those with autism are likely to regress and lose some of their hard-won verbal and social gains, according to a 10-year study published this year by Washington University.
"Unfortunately, adults leave their educational entitlements and there are no adult entitlements," said Leslie Long, director of housing and adult services for Autism Speaks, a national advocacy group.