Planning For Your Autistic Child Becoming An Adult

Planning For Your Autistic Child Becoming An Adult

In response to my Autistic young adults missing out on much needed services post, Dr. Frank Gagliardi, Executive Director, the League School of Greater Boston provided me with the following response to my concerns.  I would like to thank Dr. Gagliardi for taking the time to address my questions, and allowing me to post his answers here.

The idea that many individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) receive little to no services once they leave high school, as a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine reports, is understandably alarming to parents of an autistic child. But there are things that families can and should be doing to help their children transition to adulthood.

The first tactic that any parent should take when it comes to creating the best future for their son or daughter with ASD is to create a plan for the future. While states provide many important services for individuals with ASD, mothers and fathers must not depend on the government to take care of their child for the entirety of his or her life. Contingency plans are necessary so that a man or woman with autism possess some life skills should government services disappear. One way to ease into long-term planning is to begin mapping out weekend and vacation programs to help children with ASD develop independent living and social skills. For many students with ASD, their focus at school is on academics and not on social development. Developing social skills on weekends will help young people and their families prepare for the future.

It is easy for families to become too reliant on schools to provide all of the services that they think their son or daughter needs. It is important, therefore, for parents to develop their own strategies independent of the services school systems provide. But schools can and should play a role in ensuring that a young person with ASD has an independent future. Mothers and fathers must work with their school leadership to create realistic goals for their child. Those goals may include developing vocational opportunities that will help bolster the living skills of an adult with ASD.

Finally, parents should be helping other mothers and fathers in similar situations. Creating a network of families of children with ASD will help all of the individuals involved develop their own skills in working with their child. Parent networks can also help establish residential homes and respite care facilities that will help young people with ASD learn daily living skills in a social setting, which is so critical to the development of children with autism.

I am the executive director of the League School of Greater Boston, which educates students from the ages of 3 to 22 with ASD and Asperger’s Syndrome. We work with students to help develop their social and communications skills, as well as their academics, because we recognize that they are so important to the future independence of our students. And we work closely with families and parents to address their needs and the needs of their children, especially when it comes to life after they leave League. While upsetting, the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine study also can serve as a wakeup call for many parents to start making plans today to make sure that their child has the support they need into their adult years.

- Dr. Frank Gagliardi, Executive Director, the League School of Greater Boston

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