Rutgers is launching an initiative to establish a center that will provide adults with autism a unique opportunity to live and work independently within a university setting.
The Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services (RCAAS), to be located in two buildings on the university’s Douglass Campus in New Brunswick, will offer up to 60 adults with autism, who are living off campus, with university jobs supported by clinical staff and graduate students. A second phase of the center will offer a pilot residential program for 20 adults with autism who will work on campus and live alongside Rutgers graduate students in an integrated apartment-style residence.
Key leaders in the private fundraising project are former CEO of Viacom, CBS and Sirius XM Radio Mel Karmazin and his daughter Dina Karmazin, executive director of the Mel Karmazin Foundation, in partnership with the Rutgers University Foundation. Dina Karmazin’s son, Hunter, was diagnosed with autism at age 2, and the Karmazin Foundation has been active in autism causes.
“The Rutgers center will offer adults with autism a one-of-a-kind support program that makes independent living and a fulfilling life possible,” said Mel Karmazin. “It will rise to the challenge of giving program participants the tools they need to achieve their potential – from earning a living to navigating social interactions to building meaningful relationships.”
Rutgers President Robert Barchi said the university intends to demonstrate how educational institutions can become part of the answer by providing a model that integrates academic research, student training and community inclusion of adults with ASD.
The new center will be led by the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, which provides leading education and hands-on clinical training opportunities for students working with those challenged by ASD. The university is also home to leading autism research facilities, such as Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository, which contains the world’s largest collection of autism biomaterials, and the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, which includes an on-campus K-12 day school for children with autism from across New Jersey.
The goal of the RCAAS initiative is to raise at least $35 million to fund two buildings that would establish a centralized location for customized vocational and residential programs, student training and interdisciplinary research collaborations.
The first building, for which 50 percent of the funds have been raised, will house the workday program as well as staff offices, professional kitchen equipment, state-of-the-art computers, conference rooms and life skills teaching areas. It is slated to open fall of 2018. A second building nearby will accommodate 20 adults with ASD and 20 Rutgers graduate students living side by side. The apartment-style building will consist of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom residences, each equipped with its own kitchen as well as dining, living and laundry rooms.
For more information, visit rcaas.rutgers.edu or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to watch Mel Karmazin discuss the initiative on CNBC