In The Politics of Autism, I write:
When disabled people reach their 22d birthday, they no longer qualify for services under IDEA. ... 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.
At app., Jerry Carino talks with New Jersey social worker Bret Vaks. Autistic youths and adolescents have lots of options in the state, he notes, but...
“Then they hit 21, and that ends,” he said. “There is still a significant gap with adult services.”
In May, there were public protests of cuts in services for adults by the state’s Division of Developmental Disabilities.
“I still meet families, and this breaks my heart, who have a child with autism who is now 23 or 24 and they’re sitting home because there is no program for them,” Vaks said. “If the person with autism has significant behavioral challenges and is not high-functioning, is never going to be employed, they need a day program or a group home. Right now those folks are sitting at home because there are no places for them.”
Will the election of a new governor in November make a difference? Vaks is skeptical.
“In my experience elected officials tend to be very supportive of people with disabilities and disability issues if there are other people having conversations with them about it,” he said. “But it’s low on the radar. If you’re a family (with an autistic child), you want support and help but you don’t have time to make the phone calls. There’s not yet enough of the voices of people making calls. You have some groups who do really good work, but politicians respond best to families and not an agency.”