At The Valley Star in Harlingen, Texas, special ed teacher Pamela Gross Downing writes about what happens to autistic people after they turn 22.
For those children with severe and profound disabilities, the choices are more limited. Ideally, families with special needs children have registered their son’s or daughter’s name with Tropical Texas Behavioral Health early in their child’s life, certainly by elementary school.
Parents need to be aware of all the programs available for their children including DADS, Department of Aging and Disabilities Services. Blanca Gutierrez, at 547-5512, from Tropical Texas Behavioral Health, is a wonderful resource in helping families weave through the limited programs that are available to special needs individuals. The reason families should register early is the waiting list for some programs such as assisted living residences can be as long as 15 to 20 years. Plus, monies periodically become available for therapy assistance and respite care. It is important to have your child registered with Tropical Texas Behavioral Health to ensure that he or she receives the full possible benefits that become available over time.
For those students with mild to moderate cognitive delay, more and more options are becoming available once they reach adulthood. A wonderful program called “Aggies Elevated” at Utah State University in Logan, Utah was highlighted in the News 2 You newsletter recently. That program caters specifically to students with special needs with intellectual delays who want to go to college. About 200 colleges in the U.S. have similar programs including eight in Texas.
Aggies Elevated is a 2 year college program where children go to prepare for their future. The students learn about different jobs that might be of interest to them. Do they like working with animals, stores, food, plants or something else? They get an opportunity to work in internships for a while to find out what they like to do. They also get a chance to experience college life at their level just like other college students.
The ten programs in Texas vary including those that are similar to Aggies Elevated to others which are more geared to solely vocational training. The website www.thinkcollege.net provides a wonderful place to compare these 200 colleges for special needs children. The programs in Texas include Texas A&M PATHS, Texas Tech CASE, Austin Community College STEPS, St. Edward’s University GO Project; West Texas A&M WTLC; Lone Star College CCDEL; Houston Community College Central VAST and Houston Community College Northwest VAST. The first two programs have residential settings associated with the university. For more detailed information, search Think College to compare programs all across the country and their costs.