work experience to lead to competitive employment. The New York Executive Budget is also supporting increasing wages to direct support staff, a cost of living increase, and a Division of Workforce and Talent Management to address the need for a high quality, stable, and valued workforce.
Massachusetts appropriated $1.2 million to the Department of Mental Retardation (DMR) to establish an Autism Spectrum Division to serve 3-18 year olds with autism and Asperger’s and anticipates building capacity at nonprofit and state centers. They also plan to publish a resource guide, develop an awareness programs, develop social skills programs, and create a statewide program for first responders. The Legislature is calling for DMR to apply for a Medicaid Home and Community-based Waiver for children. The waiver will allow children to remain at home or in other community settings. There was little or no mention of adults with autism being supported.
South Carolina offers service coordination for adults with autism through the South Carolina Autism Society in five counties. Adults may participate in the MR/DD Waiver and be able to receive upgraded Medicaid services such as behavioral or psychological therapies, as well as supported employment, day or residential services along with assistive technology. Because of a 1400 member waiting list for the waiver, it’s difficult to add new people to the service system.
Some states, such as Texas, cannot even identify how many individuals with autism are in the current system or what if any services exist. They recognize they need to learn what is available before moving forward to create new services. In most states services for adults are primarily provided through the Developmental Disabilities agency which funds local non-profits to provide services, primarily day habilitation and sheltered employment. These are not appropriate services for adults on the high end of the spectrum who can live and work independently and semi-independently with appropriate supports.
Around the country states are becoming more aware of the increasing number of children and young adults with autism and are identifying the issues that this increase in population brings. They are first looking at children’s needs, creating Medicaid waivers for services for children, creating autism registries, promoting early diagnosis and improving early intervention programs. Fewer states have fully addressed the needs of adults, but a handful of states are proposing pilot projects to support adults who do not have accompanying cognitive disabilities with specific supports designed for adults on the spectrum at home, in the workplace and community.
The East Coast is leading the way in this arena. Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey all identify the concept of a life coach who can serve as lifelong mentor to adults with an autism spectrum disorder. This recognizes that the social and communication skill deficits that are part of the autism spectrum are as great a disability as the cognitive impairments of other individuals. These social deficits are what prevent
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