Adults with autism learn life skills at a New Milford facility
For most people, turning 21 means celebrating their first steps into adulthood. But for those with autism, turning 21 means the end of school programs. In New Jersey, there is a big need for education for adult learners with autism, advocates say.
New Jersey has the highest rate of diagnosis with autism spectrum disorders in the United States, according to a 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in 41 children in the state, including 1 in 26 boys, is diagnosed with the disorder by their eighth birthday.
Dr. Eric Rozenblat, co-director of The Institute for Educational Achievement in New Milford, says children aging out of the system is an ongoing problem in New Jersey. He says student educational entitlement ends at age 21 and then they move into a new system within the state Division of Developmental Disabilities. He says everyone based upon assessments that are conducted gets an assigned budget to pay for services.
The new $6 million "adult life skills" building serves people ages 3-21 with autism, targeting leisure, social, language, communication and daily living skills.
"We really focus on delivering highly intensive individualized instruction from the time they enter at age 3 all the way through adulthood," says Rozenblat.
Part of the reason why it's called an "adult life skills" program is because it goes far beyond preparing these people for employment. It also teaches them everyday skills such as going to the bank, depositing a check, going food shopping, doing laundry, going out to lunch with their friends and forming meaningful, long-lasting relationships.
He says when the program started in 2012 there was only one adult learner. There are now eight. Rozenblat adds that over the next 20 years, he's hoping to have 30 adult learners.
To find out more information about The Institute for Educational Achievement or inquire about enrollment, go to www.ieaschool.org or call 201-262-3287.