ASD Options for Living Independentlyby Megan Kelly
Today there are more options than ever before for adults and young adults living independently with autism. Programs and centers have opened in many different places across the United States, giving many people access to their benefits, assistance, and services. The programs focus on helping adults of all ages with autism acquire the necessary skills to live and enjoy an independent life.
The Gersh Experience is a transitional program and campus located in North Tonawanda, New York. The program focuses on young adults with Aspergers Syndrome, and other autism and learning disabilities, who have graduated from High School and are attending one of the many nearby colleges. Instead of living on the college campus, or at home with parents, the students live on the Gersh Campus. There is both dormitory style, and individual fully independent apartment living options available to the students, based on their preferences and individual needs. The students are able to live independently at Gersh as they attend college, but have the support of the Gersh staff available to them that they would not have on the college campus. The support includes assistance with social and life skills. There are structured group activities, and common areas on the Gersh campus where students can socialize and interact with each other, which also helps to develop social and emotional skills.
A quote from the Gersh website (http://www.gershexperience.com) describes the Gersh Experience as:
“The Gersh Experience is a transitional program created for high school graduates with Asperger’s Syndrome and other autism spectrum and learning disorders. Whether a student chooses to attend college or learn a vocational trade, they have a social support system that gets them through “the rough patches” without having to stay home and be dependent on family members. The Gersh Experience provides a balance of supportive services to students in a residential setting that will assist and guide your young adults through all phases of the typical college life, such as studying, living independently, job training, social interactions, and emotional well-being. We create self-sufficiency and purpose in the life of each person that attends The Gersh Experience.”
Another support program available is Extraordinary Ventures, located in North Carolina. Extraordinary Ventures runs a series of small businesses that fund their programs, and create jobs for the autistic individuals involved in them. Some of the businesses include laundry services, space rental, office work, maintaining and cleaning the town buses, and a website that sells items and gifts handmade by its employees, such as soaps and scented candles.
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Extraordinary Ventures gives those living with disabilities the chance to join the work force to become productive, contributing members of society. They are able to earn a wage to support an independent life style, as well as learn valuable social skills. Some of the adults that start at Extraordinary Ventures move on after to pursue careers, or part-time jobs with other companies.
There is also the option of Group Home living for autistic adults. Group Homes allow for semi-independent living. Residents usually have a private room of their own, and access to common rooms to socialize with other residents. The supervision and support of staff and professionals is available at all times. Some Group Homes also provide “In Home Support” programs. With “In Home Support” an individual lives at home with family or friends, and receives visits and support from the center’s staff daily, or several times per week.
The residents’ families are a very important part of Opportunity House. Many family members serve or have served on their Board of Directors. Family members also contribute to many of Opportunity Houses committees including planning, fundraising, and financing.
Opportunity House has several Group Homes located in the North Haven area of Connecticut. They provide instructional programs and support that are individually tailored to suit each of their residents. They also offer “In Home Support”, and provide nutritional, medical, speech, and behavior programs. Their programs are designed to do the following,
“Increase the resident’s independence with self- care activities.
Teach and improve skills with household maintenance tasks.
Allow everyone to be a contributing member of the household.”
As time goes on, more and more programs that support independent living for those with autism and other disabilities have become available. Many communities have realized the importance and benefits that these programs provide. The chance to go to college, have a job or career, and live independently is becoming a reality for many individuals with autism. Hopefully the future will provide even more programs, in more states and countries, allowing anyone and everyone who would benefit from them access to their valuable services and assistance.
The Gersh Experience: http://www.gershexperience.com
Extraordinary Ventures: http://www.extraordinaryventures.org
Opportunity House: http://www.opportunityhousect.org