Dear Editor, 

Young adults with autism (22+) are often left behind. This is because, once they graduate high school and/or reach the age of 22, they are considered, “aged-out.”  This means the educational services they were receiving under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) simply go away. Even though the support and services end, people with autism don’t magically grow out of autism or “get better”. Autism is a lifelong journey and the costs associated with care and services are upwards of $1.4million over a lifespan. *https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24911948/

Less than 20% of adults with autism live on their own. Yet with the right support, coaching, and encouragement, so many more have the ability. The barriers to many autistic adults living independently are the high costs of care and lack of insurance coverage. Care and services should not be out of reach to anyone, regardless of financial need.

CA Human Services (Commonwealth Autism), a 501c3 non-profit organization, has worked to bridge these service gaps for Virginians with autism and developmental disabilities for over 25 years. One way CA is working to do this is through an annual scholarship for our Residential-Adult Program. In this transformative program adults aged 18 to 35+ live in a communal style, single family home in a beautiful neighborhood in near Richmond’s West End. By harnessing intrinsic motivation, providing life skills training, and implementing familiar support systems adults with autism or developmental disabilities can live in the residence for six months to two years. Once they graduate through the program, they move on to live independently in their own apartment or home. CA also continues to support them through regular check-ins through what we call our Community Support Program.

Maintaining this program for a single client can cost up to $3000 per month. This cost factors in room and board, coaching, and other support services. This is a sticker shock for most families, and this cost unfortunately limits which Virginians can utilize the program. Through a generous grant from the state, CA can now offer needs-based scholarships at 50% of costs. To cover the remaining cost for one economically disadvantaged adult, we have begun fundraising for our Invest in Independence Scholarship.

We are seeking scholarship applicants now! To qualify for the scholarship, individuals should be aged 18+, live in Virginia, have an autism or similar diagnosis, have the capacity and motivation to live independently, and prove financial need. Interested individuals can apply at  https://www.cahumanservices.org/invest-in-independence/

Cameron Kelley

Marketing and Events Coordinator

CA Human Services

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