When a person diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum reaches age 21, mandated state and federal services end. Mary Lloyd Moore, Director of the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex at WKU, says this has been compared to falling off a cliff.
Dr. Moore quoted a colleague, Denise Resnick: “As the school bus stops coming, families and communities are faced with Autism’s perfect storm: an increasing population of special needs adults, dwindling government resources, individuals losing their skills, few housing options and a lot of fear for what happens next.”
This need is the impetus for an upcoming pilot project called the Next Generation Initiative, which is a logical extension of services the CEC provides for individuals over age 21 diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum and their families.
“The CEC Next Generation Initiative will provide best practice services and training for professionals to this age group, thereby fulfilling the CEC’s mission of ‘Building a world where all individuals flourish as valued members of their community,’” Dr. Moore said.
The initiative, which is still in the planning stages, will unite and coordinate services from community programs such as LifeSkills, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Housing Authority of Bowling Green, River Valley Behavioral Health and Sunrise Children’s Services.
“As one combined force, we will maximize the power of working together to create supportive, cost-effective services for this group of adults,” Dr. Moore said.
The initiative will also provide training opportunities for various academic programs, such as Social Work, Communication Disorders, Psychology and Counseling.
The goal of this coordinated approach is to identify the needs and expectations of the individuals and their families and develop a “life plan” that provides a framework for improved quality of life and meaningful community participation.
“Through increased inclusion and valued roles, individuals enrolled in the Next Generation Initiative can become more productive members of the community,” she said. “By combining our expertise, we will partner with these families and facilitate their young adult’s positive opportunities in three critical areas: supported employment, supported living and meaningful community engagement.”
Dr. Moore announced the Next Generation Initiative during a celebration of Autism After 21 Day and a recognition of Kentucky Rep. Jim DeCesare, whose resolution declaring April 21 as Autism After 21 Day in Kentucky was passed by the state House of Representatives.
Since 2006, the CEC has strived to support families and their children diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum from age 2 to high school. In addition, the Kelly Autism Program’s Post-Secondary Program supports academically qualified students as they attend WKU.
Contact: Mary Lloyd Moore, (270) 745-2183