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.
Jerry Carino at The Asbury Park Press writes about the cliff.
A bold new project seeks to change that. The Monmouth Ocean Foundation for Children, a nonprofit with a track record of helping special-needs youth, is launching The Achieve Academy for Adults with Autism.
The cliff was an emerging problem long before the pandemic, as a generation of young adults with autism moved into a post-school world unequipped to help them.
“All of a sudden parents are left to fumble through a confusing maze of, ‘What do I do with my adult who is disabled?’” said Tara Beams, a Monmouth Ocean Foundation for Children board member and veteran special-needs educator. “Our goal is to get our autistic adults working. Some of them may be able to independently work at some point. Some of them may be able to work with support, maybe with an aide with them. Some may be able to work part-time but not necessarily full-time because they need other services.”
It’s doable. One shining example is No Limits Café in Middletown, which is staffed almost entirely by special-needs adults. Beams and her colleagues have contacts in various businesses, from Staples to T.J. Maxx, that will provide opportunities to those who are ready. See the video at the top of this story to see how No Limits Café works.