The Center for Autism Research (CAR) is excited to announce that we have received a grant from Autism Speaks™ to develop Next Steps into Adulthood. The one year grant will provide the funding needed to expand our already successful Next Steps Workshop Series, which currently features Next Steps Workshop for Families of Young Children, Next Steps Workshop for Professionals, and Next Steps into Adolescence.
The original Next Steps workshop was developed over ten years ago for families whose young children were recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The workshop covers what ASD is, what therapies and services are available for children, what supports are available for parents, and more.
CAR social worker and workshop organizer Gail Stein, LCSW says, “Next Steps was originally developed for families whose children were recently given an ASD diagnosis because that’s where the greatest need seemed to be. These families were entering a world that they needed information about. But then we were seeing tweens and teens in the clinic whose parents really wanted guidance on how to navigate the adolescent years and middle school, so we developed Next Steps into Adolescence.”
Those CAR research participants who were in their early teens a few years ago are now quickly approaching adulthood, and the reality is ASD is a lifelong diagnosis that requires a lifelong plan.
According to Stein, “Ideally, families should begin thinking about what their child’s post-education plans are by about 14 years of age.”
There are a multitude of questions to consider: Will the student graduate at 18 or remain in the secondary education system until age 21? Is a vocational program appropriate? Will the child attend college? How much support does the individual need on a day to day basis? Where will the individual live after high school?
As Stein explains, “It’s a very overwhelming list for parents. The adult system is not mandated, so it’s very fragmented. Navigating the adult transition process is difficult even for the most experienced and knowledgeable parent.”
Because the topic of adulthood is so broad, Next Steps into Adulthood will have a different format from the other workshops, which are one day sessions. The Adulthood workshop will feature eight sessions over a two month period. We plan to develop the content with the help of adults with ASD, their families, and professionals who support them.
Developing this content will take time, so we do not yet have a date for the workshop launch. Please keep an eye out for messages from our email listserv (listserv sign up box on right-hand side of screen) or our Facebook page for more info!