Disability Issues

Young adults with autism face barriers

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The transition into adulthood is especially challenging for teens with autism.

Families with autistic children have to spend years finding the right education and therapy programs that best fit their child's needs.

Many need to figure out what to do when they reach the age of 22 and the school bus stops coming.

The Jorwic's 22-year-old-son Chris is autistic.

"He was up to the age 2 and everything was going about 100 percent correctly, maybe a little bit slow on walking, but he was always the big kid," said his mother Therese Jorwic. "He actually had about 100 words, was very interactive, and at about age 2, everything shutdown slowly. He kind of started getting into his own world and everything in terms of talking and everything else just kind of fell away slowly."

The family knew that when Chris turned 22, they had to start making future plans.

"And the challenges, of course, are what kind of programs do you put together, not just for today but going forward to his adult life," she said. " We've been very fortunate because the program started in Ray Graham literally the day we needed it and it's a program for younger adults that has a lot of great activities, community service."

This is just the beginning. Therese Jorwic knows her son wants to work and has skills, but there are barriers to finding the right job.

"He has some wonderful skills, (but) because he has some significant communication challenges, some of those things become difficult," Therese Jorwic said. "He lives anything having to do with sports. He has al ot of opinions about politics and that kind of thing, so in terms of how that works in a job, we're still trying to figure that out. Some of the more typical things we have seen, we felt weren't really workable for Chris."

Chris' sister, Nicole, is a special health education attorney.

"My parents have always been ahead of the curve in that respect and they always kind of had one eye on the immediate and one on the future," Nicole said. "Even my siblings and I have talked about what we would do and all of us&I mean we're really close family and none of us want to see Chris other than being happy and whatever that looks like."

Nicole works with many families who have children with autism in the school system. She said there's such a great need for "workable" transition plans.

"I've seen cases where it's a student with very low-functioning autism and have college on their transition plan," Nicole said. "Well that's a nice idea. It's unrealistic.

"It needs to be realistic in what their goals are, what skills and deficits they still have, and the big thing that were seeing, the deficits you know, once they hit, transition academics are out the door."

Like many young adults with disabilities, Chris has dreams for his future. He communicates via light writer devices with help of a facilitator

"I want to go around the world," he said. "Breaking barriers of ignorance with my condition and I also want to go to college and study English and history and poetry."

For more information on the Ray Graham Association's programs for young adults with autism, visit www.raygraham.org

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