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What It Takes To Help Teens With Autism Succeed As Adults

ASSIST – Advocating for Supports to Improve Service Transitions – is a program that trains parents of young adults with autism on services that are available in the community and empowers them to advocate for their child to help them successfully transition to adulthood.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are bringing a program to Illinois focused on helping teens with autism transition to adulthood.

The 12-week training program, known as ASSIST, will be offered in Naperville. One of the goals is to teach parents and their teens how to navigate services for adults with autism.

U of I special education professor Meghan Burke will be studying the program’s effectiveness.

Burke said schools streamline education and services, but these same services are scattered in the adult world.

“I think it’s almost misleading to call it the adult service delivery system because it’s actually multiple systems,” Burke said, “and they usually don’t speak to one another.” 

Linda Tortorelli, who directs The Autism Program at the U of I, said just because someone is eligible for a service doesn’t mean the service is available.

Tortorelli criticized the state’s philosophy surrounding autism support and said care is flawed, especially compared to other states.

“We are pretty much almost at the bottom of the barrel of all the states on how we provide community-based supports for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” she said.

The Illinois ASSIST program begins next week; another session will be offered in the fall.

Families unable to attend the training in Naperville can contact The Autism Program at U of I to learn about available resources.

Tortorelli said a program like this would have helped smooth the transition for her now 30-year-old son with autism into adulthood. She said the community from the program would have been the most help, saying, “I was really doing this in isolation all the time.” 

Guests: Linda Tortorelli, The Autism Program director, and Meghan Burke, special education professor and principal investigator of the ASSIST program’s training site in Naperville.

Prepared for web by WILL intern Sidney Madden

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