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Autism: Helping Your Child Head Into to Adulthood

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"Supported employment" assists in finding disabled individuals paying jobs and has proved that even those with severe disabilities are able to work.

"A workplace mentor helps to find them a job that suits their interests and abilities and checks in with them periodically to make sure it works," says Bruce Litinger, executive director of the Early Childhood Learning Center of New Jersey. The non-profit provides services to children and adults with special needs.

While supported employment helps people with special needs enter the workforce, there are also vocational programs that provide counseling and on-the-job training to high school students with autism. Check with your state’s developmental disabilities service to search for programs that suit your child.

What if your child isn't heading off to work? “Even if a young adult with autism can’t have a paying job, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to have some independence,” Litinger says. Taking part in activities like volunteering, gardening, art, and music can help him enjoy a more full social and emotional life.


About 16% of young adults with autism live away from home. Depending on your state, your child's housing options may include:

  • Supported living in a home or apartment with a caregiver
  • Group-home living with on-site staff
  • Foster-home living with professional teaching parents
  • Assisted living/intermediate care facilities

You can find out about housing support and services -- and who pays for them -- from your state’s developmental disabilities service.

Magro suggests that families assess their budding adults' readiness to live away from home and determine the help they will need. “Anyone with autism preparing to live on their own needs to learn the basics of independent living, including organizational skills, money management, and social skills," he says.

Putting It All Together

Some programs can help ease the transition with guidance on many aspects of adulthood, from social and kitchen skills to pastimes like book clubs and fitness activities. Then it's a matter of planning, planning, and more planning, Magro says.

“The families that I work with have learned very early on that they have to get through lots of obstacles to provide their children with what they need,” Cruger says. “That will come in handy in making the transition to adulthood.”

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Reviewed on September 04, 2013

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