As throngs of children with autism turn 18,  many will enroll in college in pursuit of higher education.  With one in 88 children being diagnosed on the autism spectrum every year, this means almost 45,000 to 50,000 kids with autism turn 18 each year,  according to autism researcher Paul Shattuck, PhD of the A. J. Drexel Autism Institute.

Colleges and universities across the nation are not prepared to support these students. According to the website  CollegeAutismSpectrum.com which was started by Dr. Jane Brown who has a college-age child on the autism spectrum,  there are a mere 23 programs with dedicated programs to help students succeed in the collegiate environment. Many of these programs cost upwards of $5,000 per semester in addition to the typical costs of attendance often making them out-of-reach for already financially-strapped parents of a child with a disability.

When a student with autism graduates from high school and enters college, they are no long covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act which guarantees a “free and appropriate education” up to age 22. Individual Education Plans (IEP) are replaced by accommodations approved under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 known as “Section 504 Plans”.  Students no longer have a team of educators, administrators, counselors, and health professionals hammering out their plan of education as they are now adults and are expected to advocate for themselves.

When a student with autism enrolls in college, they are encouraged to meet with the Office of Disabilities to define appropriate accommodations within the classroom.  Extra time on tests, dictation devices, and written instructions are some of the more common accommodations but what is sorely lacking is the thing they need the most:   support and training as they become self-advocating adults.

In the college environment, students with autism are required to self-define strengths and weaknesses, deal with conflict resolution, and navigate the complexities of group dynamics for assigned projects all while adjusting to a new world without the strong support network they have relied on their entire academic career. Parents and other caring advocates are discouraged from “interfering” which leaves a new college student at the mercy of the strength of the support program of the school.  And too many schools are failing them.

Community college is often the first step for the student with autism as living away from home may not be possible yet.  The combination of a new academic environment and living away from supportive parents is often too much to handle as those with autism may still be learning important life skills at this age.  Sending a student to a college thousands of miles from home is not a viable option so the local community college is the choice for many.

Of the twenty-three colleges listed on CollegeAutismSpectrum.com as having an autism support program, one is a community college.  The U.S. Department of Education states there are 1,100 community colleges across the nation and only one provides a dedicated autism support program.  While every college or university is required to have an Office of Disability Services, few are prepared to offer the support for the thousands of students with autism who are now or soon will be enrolled on their campuses.

There are many private companies offering guidance for schools wishing to increase support for students with autism but, for community colleges with limited resources, this is beyond their budget leaving thousands of students who would benefit from this guidance with sub-standard services.

Over the past twenty years, services for those on the autism spectrum has grown leaps and bounds. Children are diagnosed more accurately and quickly, therapies such a Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) are now covered under major insurance plans, and inclusion in classrooms  in public elementary and secondary schools is the new normal.  However, the minute a student steps onto a college campus, the environment reverts back to an outdated model.   Support must be updated in order to give students with autism the opportunity to excel academically and find success in the college environment.

The US College Autism Project is seeking grants to finance training for faculty and staff of universities and colleges so they can better serve students with autism but, sadly, interest and enthusiasm is low. To find out more about the US College Autism Project and attend a conference, please visit their webpage.  Dr. Michael McManmon, founder of the College Internship Program, a comprehensive post-secondary support program for adults on the autism spectrum is also the author of the wonderful book Made for Good Purpose: What Every Parent Needs to Know to Help Their Adolescent with Asperger’s, High Functioning Autism or a Learning Difference Become an Independent Adult.

 

What I Would Tell My 30-Year-Old Self

After writing a humorous post about the benefits of being age 50, I was asked to appear on CNN to talk about my experiences at this age in light of Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday. The host, Brooke Baldwin, asked me “What would you tell your 30-year-old self?” In the video, you can see me hesitate because what I wanted to say was “Grab a bottle of vodka and some Xanax then run because shit is about to go down. Continue reading

Introducing Women of a Certain Awesome

I’m excited to announce a new feature at Hot Flashes of Inspiration:  Women of a Certain Awesome.

Let me give you a little background into why I created this…

I recently wrote about how many women over the age of 50 feel invisible and unappreciated by our youth-centered society.  A reporter asked me shortly after the article was published “What are you going to do about it?”

What was I going to do about it? How can one person change an entire culture’s view of aging women? If I continued to write about the negative aspects of aging, then I would be contributing to the perpetuation of this viewpoint. Not gonna happen! Continue reading

The Jewelry Maker in Starbucks

While waiting for my Triple Grande Skinny Mocha yesterday at Starbucks, I noticed a woman in her 50′s approach the counter. Her hair was short and silver, her shoes were sensible and flat and, by first glance, she looked rather plain.

When she turned, I noticed the beautiful jewelry she was wearing. Silver choker with a huge glimmering stone in the center and matching earrings. I felt awkward about approaching her but felt I wanted to tell her how nice they were.

“Where did you get them?” I asked. “I made them”, she said with her face beaming. We proceeded to talk about how she selected the stones and her passion for jewelry making. I asked if she sold jewelry and she remarked that she would love to but needed to work full-time to support her mother who is in a nursing home.

I think that made me admire her even more. I don’t know if she felt the same but I felt uplifted when I left. Just seeing a woman over 50 with a passion for her art made me inspired.

Is Plastic Surgery in Your Forecast for 2014?

New Year, New You. This time of year we see a lot of ads for plumpers, fillers, extractions, and other painful ways that allegedly will make your life miraculously better if you just stop being what you are naturally. Plastic surgery has become common place and more women are opting for an expressionless forehead in exchange for the semblance of a more youthful appearance.

I joke alot about needing and getting plastic surgery but the truth of the matter is I would never do it for the following reasons:

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The Worst (and Best) Gift I Ever Received

I know I am the hardest person in the world to shop for. If I see something I want, I snatch that shit up in a heartbeat because I know that there’s a snowball’s chance in hell my husband will think to get it for me. He’s a cutie pie but, Dear God, the man has no clue how to shop for me.

It really shouldn’t be that hard since anything bedazzled and shiny will do. I even send him links to things I like with a “BUY THIS FOR ME” note attached but he insists on making his own choices with varying degrees of disappointing results.

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Feeling Invisible After 50

I began to realize I had acquired a cloak of invisibility when it came to men a few years ago. I was no longer on the receiving end of the prolonged glance, the admiring wink, or, hell, even an acknowledgement I was in the same breathing space as a male of the species.

This stirred some very strange emotions in me:  Was I no longer attractive? Did I really look that bad? Over time, this began to change my personality. I no longer waltzed into a room like I was announcing “Here I am, lucky world!” but began to almost feel apologetic for taking up space where a super-hot infant of age 20 could be standing.

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The Queen Mother Gets a Medic Alert Device

The Queen Mother has resisted our attempts over the years to secure a medic alert device in her home. At almost 81, she is still very active and independent but she lives alone and my sister and I worry about her. So sue us. We were raised by a most excellent guilt-wielding non-Jewish Jewish mother. It’s what we do.

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My Plan for The Holidays

During Thanksgiving dinner, my son asked “So, what are the plans for the holidays?”  Here is my response:

“I am going to spend every last penny of my Louis Vuitton purse fund on gifts for you and your sister. I will put the Christmas tree up by myself as everyone runs for the hills every year when I pull out the boxes and magically reappears when it is all done. I will wrap all the presents and buy all the stocking stuffers even though you busted Santa years ago.

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Thoughts and Musings of a Middle-Aged SuperGal