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.
Adult children with intellectual and developmental disabilities can wind up with family unprepared to care for them. Or in a nursing home whose staff are unfamiliar with their complicated medical or behavioral diagnoses.
Or, worse, they can fall victim to predators such as Linda Weston, who coerced intellectually disabled adults into making her the payee of their Social Security benefits. In return, she and a handful of conspirators subjected the vulnerable men and women to unspeakable abuse: chained captivity, beatings, neglect, forced prostitution, starvation, and death. In 2015, Weston was sentenced to life plus 80 years in prison for the atrocities she directed in what was dubbed the "Tacony House of Horror."
"Abuse is a very, very big concern," says California attorney Thomas Coleman, author of "Abuse of People with Disabilities: Victims and Their Families Speak Out." The shocking 2012 report from the Disability and Abuse Projectfound that 70 percent of all people with disabilities have been abused at some point in their lives. Those with intellectual or developmental disabilities are victimized at an even higher rate, Coleman says.
"If you're in a wheelchair or blind, you can still scream or shout if you're being hurt," says Coleman, an attorney and disability rights advocate. "But if you have an intellectual or developmental disability, you're less likely to be believed if you complain, or you may be unable to complain. Those cases are especially hard to prosecute."