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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Birch Family Services

Melanie Grayce West writes at The Wall Street Journal:
Over the last decade, there's been a general increase in awareness of the need to provide tailored services, support and education to children with autism and other developmental disabilities. But there's been less talk about the needs of those children when they reach adulthood.

In short, what do families do to help their adult children to maximize their quality of life and independence?

It is a question that Richard E. Farley, a partner in the leveraged finance group of the law firm of Paul Hastings LLP in New York, has been working on with fellow board members of Birch Family Services, a 35-year-old New York-based organization that serves children with disabilities and their families.

"The most important initiative right now is addressing the pending tsunami of the adult-aged population of people with autism-spectrum disorders," explains Mr. Farley. "Once you reach adulthood, you're telling families, 'You're on your own.'"

To that end, the organization is developing programs for what will be, in years to come, a vastly underserved community of people with autism-spectrum disorders, which run the gamut in the seriousness of the symptoms. A percentage of that population, says Mr. Farley, can be self-sufficient in the work force, provided that there is specialized training and a support system. For example, some people who have autism spectrum disorders or other development disabilities could find success in doing administrative work or even working for a specialized office-cleaning company, he says.