PRESS RELEASE April-14-2017

Sweeney Tours New Program at Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services

New Brunswick – Senate President Steve Sweeney today toured a new center at Rutgers that will provide support services for adults with autism, offering job opportunities and the skills to live with the greatest independence possible. The Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services will also facilitate academic research on one of the fastest growing developmental disabilities in the country.

“The Center for Adult Autism Services is working to accomplish something that I think everyone agrees should be our top priority,” said Senator Sweeney. “It allows adults with autism to live as fulfilling a life as possible. We want everyone, no matter what challenges they face, to reach their fullest potential. This support can make a real difference in their lives.”

The Rutgers center for adults with autism will provide the opportunity for them to live and work independently within a university setting. The Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services, located on the Douglass Campus, will offer adults with university jobs and support from clinical staff and graduate students. The program will offer vocational training as well as social support and clinical services, focusing on a workday program to provide adult participants with prevocational, vocational, and recreational opportunities.

A second phase of the center will establish a pilot residential program for adults with autism who will work on campus and live alongside Rutgers graduate students in an apartment-style residence.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is one of the fastest growing developmental disabilities in America. An estimated one in 68 children nationally and one in 41 in New Jersey have an ASD diagnosis but services for adults with autism diminish greatly after high school, which is why it is so important to help and support adults with ASD.

“For a significant number of adults with autism spectrum disorder, the transition from the educational entitlement system to the realm of adult services involves a significant reduction in the services and supports that provide opportunities for community-based independent living,” said Christopher Manente, Executive Director, Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services. “The center will address the greater issues facing adults on the spectrum throughout the state of New Jersey and beyond by building upon the strong foundation of cutting-edge research and interdisciplinary expertise that exists at Rutgers.”

“Families tell us every day about their difficulties finding and maintaining high-quality services for adults with autism across the spectrum. With the effective leadership of Senate President Sweeney and the entire Legislature, we can advance the availability and quality of adult employment, day, and residential programs across the state,” said Suzanne Buchanan, Executive Director, Autism New Jersey. “As we’ve seen today, the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services is a unique and innovative example of the kinds of services adults with autism need and deserve. Through its commitment to research and best practices, the RCAAS will benefit not only its participants but also adults with autism throughout the world.”

School-age children with autism receive tutoring, mental health care, transportation, and other services to accommodate their needs. But once they leave the public school system after high school, services diminish dramatically, leaving adults with little support beyond their families.

“When it comes to autism, we are learning more and more about this disorder and we know that by helping children early on we can make a huge difference in their lives,” said Senator Sweeney, who has a daughter with Down Syndrome. “But adults living with autism need support as well, and we know that with the proper help people with Autism can thrive.”

In the next decade, as many as 500,000 children with autism in the United States will reach adulthood. The demand for support, programs, employment, and housing already has created a crisis.