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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Autistic Adults in San Antonio

Previous posts have dealt with ASD people "falling off the cliff" when they age out of the school system.  The San Antonio Current reports:
Rita Kosnik, professor of management at Trinity University and mother of a child with Asperger’s syndrome, said that for these students high school graduation is nothing to celebrate. “It’s a curse. They go into a no-man’s land. They get turned down for services day after day because they can walk and they can read.”

Kosnik estimated that as many as 88 percent of high-functioning autistic adults today are underemployed, living in basements and guest rooms and “doomed to be beneficiaries of our Social Security system.”

Small parent-led groups, such as the 500 Olmos Club that Kosnik leads with two other parents, have helped a handful locally, but conference speakers agreed that a huge need exists in San Antonio. “These people deserve to be happy and have some sense of success,” said Rosario Farahani-Espinoza, a retired teacher with two autistic children.

A program out of Phoenix provides some clues as to where a coalition here could potentially take things.

Introduced by SA City Manager Sheryl Sculley, Denise Resnik, co-founder of the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, talked up her group’s quick successes — thanks in part to corporate donors: a 1,800-square-foot campus, regular research and pharmaceutical trials, and — perhaps most impressive — an employment rate of 65 percent. (The average for autistic adults, is about 10 percent.) Students there have also contributed 30,000 hours of community service in the past three years.

“At times I feel like we are really with young adults exactly where we were 20 years ago with early intervention,” Resnik said.

Dan Burns, chair of the Autism Trust USA and contributing editor at the online news source Age of Autism, made the drive from Dallas for the breakfast. He’s been working on a possible partial solution: a summer camp in Austin that will gather for the first time this summer, develop into a full-time vocational residential community in the fall, and then, hopefully, develop into a college campus.

It’s known as An Independent Me, and it already has some permanent and part-time campers lined up for the summer. “We want to get this going anyplace it’s needed,” Burns said. “I’m the Johnny Appleseed going out and trying to get this going, wherever we can find the energy and the resources.”