Menendez Wants To Expand Services For Young Adults With Autism

U.S. Sen. Robert Menenedez

U.S. Sen. Robert Menenedez

PARAMUS – In an effort to expand the nation’s understanding of – and services for – young adults and their families living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today unveiled legislation that would provide federal funding to research and evaluate services currently available for young people “aging out” of existing education and support systems, develop a national strategic action plan, and provide training grants to put the plan into action in helping transitioning youth to lead productive, independent lives.

“For too many young people with autism spectrum disorders, the end of high school means the end of the support and skills training they need to succeed in the new world of adulthood,” said Menendez (D-NJ). “We need a national response to ensure that resources are available to enable these young adults to lead the productive, fulfilling lives they deserve.”

“Senator Menendez has been a leading champion for the autism community in Congress and the AGE-IN Act shows he is closely attuned to the pressing needs of our families,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks’ executive vice president for programs and services. “Many thousands of young adults with autism are now ‘aging out’ of the daily supports they receive through the public education system, and need help with employment, housing, transportation, higher education and other services. Living at home with aging parents is simply not an option in many cases.”

“Over the years, ECLC of New Jersey has expanded its mission beyond education into adult supported-employment and day programs because of the gap faced by so many young people with special needs as they transition out of their respective school programs at age 21,” said ECLC Executive Director, Bruce Litinger. “This type of federal funding is needed to support young people and their families who otherwise will be faced with limited opportunities.”

The Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence and Navigation (AGE-IN) Act of 2013 will address the needs of aging-out youth with ASD in two phases: The first phase is designed to identify the most effective interventions and existing support service infrastructure in order to develop a comprehensive training plan; The second phase puts this plan to action by providing grants to existing entities – such as University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service – to train a new generation of Transition Navigators.

Transition Navigators will be trained to provide interdisciplinary and comprehensive services to address the needs of transitioning youths including providing services aimed at accessing continuing education (including vocational training) and competitive employment, but also in obtaining life’s other necessities such as health care, housing, transportation and community integration.

Young adults with autism spectrum disorders who turn 21 “age out” and are no longer eligible for school based support services. The world into which these young adults are thrown can be disjointed and lacking in meaningful support networks. This often leads to the youth stalling or regressing from the social, behavioral, educational and emotional progress made during their time in school.

Each year, roughly 50,000 children with an ASD reach adulthood with few opportunities for continuing their education or finding employment. Currently, less than half of transitioning youth are participating in either secondary education or employment within the two years after leaving high school, and only 35 percent receive any additional education within six years. This lack of social integration and participation in the years immediately following high school sets transitioning youth on a path of non-participation that will remain for the rest of their lives.

Nationally, there is a lack of understanding about the services available to transitioning youth or the effectiveness of these services. The only consensus among researchers is there is a lack of available data and more research is needed to fully understand and develop techniques to successfully meet transitioning youths’ unique needs.

Menendez’s bill is designed to conduct research, develop techniques and implement training for support services that will help ensure young adults with ASD have the opportunities to make the transition to adulthood a success.

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2 comments for “Menendez Wants To Expand Services For Young Adults With Autism

  1. Frances Ponsford-Burnett
    July 16, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    These shoes on the SC statehouse picture represent the thousands of people who are not receiving the services needed to lead a happy, safe and healthy life. This is also proof there is a need for an oversight committee on the disability department to do their “job” right.

    My son (level 3 ASD) was put on a list for an adult daycare center (the only one in the county), and when I called to see where he was on the list-they said he wasn’t on it. Now its a 5 year wait. But his old classmates were moved up the list because they now live in a group home. It is a tragedy that adults who live with their parents have no support whatsoever!

    We don’t need more than the 50000+ peer reviewed articles on qualitative analysis on causal links with adults with ASD do we? Make each state university do one quantitative analysis (out of their public endowments) on what each county is doing for this group of people. We already know that each person with ASD in each state will need a different support, for the 50000+ adults aging into the system by 2020. This is an awful lot of research (as I scratch my head in bewilderment and sarcasm). Kind of like the whole Thermasol debacle.

    We don’t need research to build more jails- right? But they continue to pad the funding for them!

    I have an a novel idea, take that 700+ million and put it into more daycare centers for children and adults!

  2. gammicca
    July 15, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    This should already be done via a student’s school system as well as OVR agency. There is no need to create another business entity and way for others to make more money off autism. Get those within the current service delivery to do what they should be doing within educational supports and vocational rehabilitation options. Also please look at secondary education options as well. Many individuals with autism can attend college and are not being provided that option. Thank you.

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