By Guest Blogger Tracey Fecher, Vice President of Programs for Community Gatepath
Throughout the next decade, more than half a million young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in America will be “aging-out” of the education system when they turn 21 or 22. Those statistics are alarming. Families will face overwhelming changes when the systems that have been in place to support both child and family disappear once school services end. The premiere of NBC Dateline’s investigative report, “On the Brink,” earlier this week created a great buzz in the autism community across the nation, effectively shining a spotlight on this crisis. Camera crews documented the emotional journey of two families, during the course of a few years, who navigated this important transition in their child’s life.
ASD is the fastest growing developmental disability nationally. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of people diagnosed with ASD is increasing rapidly and expected in some states to double during the next decade. Federal and state governments must respond to the growing demand for adequate support systems and services for adults so individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can thrive and aren’t left floundering when they no longer have the education system that has supported them since they were preschoolers.
Young people with autism and their families need tools to help them prepare for the transition into adulthood. The mother of one of the young men highlighted in “On the Brink” described this life-phase as equivalent to sadly being “pushed off a cliff.”