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.
Liz Kane had that question about her son, Paul. "Paul was special needs, he was challenging in many ways," Kane said. The upside to Paul's diagnosis as a child was that he had a host of experts to help him on his path. That is, until he grew up. "I didn't realize until he graduated that the next week all the appointments he was going to were no longer available," Kane said.
Without a clear path, Kane decided to create a solution. She started a home in San Jose for young adults, like her son, with high-functioning autism. It would be a place where they could live away from their families but still have support services to teach them how to transition to independent living. She called it Shire House.
"By the time he (Paul) was in high school, I considered myself an expert and that was why I was okay to manage other young adults through the same issues my son had experienced," Kane said.
Six years later, she's helped 30 young people with autism successfully transition out of Shire House and into the next phase of their adult lives.