In The Politics of Autism, I write:
When disabled people reach their 22d birthday, they no longer qualify for services under IDEA. “We always say at the age of 21 the (school) bus stops coming,” says Nina Wall, the director of Pennsylvania’s autism services.[i] “They put so much effort and wonderful work into the school experience and for most people all that work all that effort all that wonderful enriching experience just disappears,” says autism parent Linda Ster. “They don’t even understand it, it’s like how come I’m not going to school and I’m sitting at home with mom watching TV all day long.”[ii]
People in the disability community refer to this point in life as “the cliff.” Once autistic people go over the cliff, they have a hard time getting services such as job placement, vocational training, and assistive technology. IDEA entitles students to transition planning services during high school, but afterwards, they have to apply as adults and establish eligibility for state and federal help. One study found that 39 percent of young autistic adults received no service at all, and most of the rest got severely limited services.[iii]
[i] Jeff Hawkes, “Life After School Poses Challenges for Garden Spot Grad with Autism,” Lancaster Online, August 24, 2014. Online: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/life-after-school-poses-challenges-for-garden-spot-grad-with/article_072c1490-2955-11e4-aeb8-001a4bcf6878.html.[ii] Camille Smith, “What Happens to People with Autism When They Age Out of School?” WBEZ, January 2, 2015. Online: http://www.wbez.org/news/what-happens-people-autism-when-they-age-out-school-111326.[iii] Paul Shattuck, et al., “Post–High School Service Use among Young Adults With an Autism Spectrum Disorder,” JAMA Pediatrics (February 2011): 141-146. Online: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=384252.
An organization that wages legal battles on behalf of people with disabilities has launched a new attack, this time on what it claims is Pennsylvania's lack of community-based programs for autistic adults.
The Disability Rights Network of PA argues in a lawsuit it filed in U.S. Middle District Court on behalf of three men with autism that the state Department of Human Services is violating federal law, including the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Because there aren't enough community-based residential programs for those with autism, one of their clients is being held in a county prison and the other two aren't being permitted to leave state psychiatric hospitals, the network contends.
All three clients face the same dilemma, according to the suit: They can't be released because they have no place to go