As a parent of a child with autism turning 22 years of age the experience can be frightening and overwhelming. Long gone are the days where you felt a sense of security because you knew your son or daughter was going to the same program he/she attended for the past several years. You felt comfortable talking to his/her teacher that you had known for years. You have memorized your son’s and daughter’s schedule and knew exactly when they had gym and speech therapy.
Now you are facing a whole new world. The adult service system is complex and understanding it is essential for effective transition planning. When students with disabilities graduate from school or turn 22 years of age, they move from an entitlement to a non-entitlement system. While school students receive services and supports mandated by federal and state law, as adults, they maybe eligible for services from adult agencies but there is no guarantee. It is essential that parents and students understand the adult service system before services need to be accessed. Choosing the right program for your child is critically important. The process of selecting a program is analogous to selecting a college for a typically developed child. It has to be the right “fit”!
Thankfully, my son Jesse got into a wonderful program that supports his skills and addresses his needs. The process however didn’t go without advocacy and exploration. The end result for mom, dad and child is very exciting. As Jesse reports “It’s nice being an adult”!