Home google Misericordia launches new program to help adults with autism - Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

Misericordia launches new program to help adults with autism - Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

DALLAS TWP. — Pennsylvania law gives those diagnosed with autism some support through schools until age 21. But help after that is often up in the air. Misericordia University has launched a new program designed specifically for adults with autism, aiming to help them land a job and live independently.

“A lot of individuals are aging out of high school,” explained Joan Roth Kleinman, director of the new Autism for Lifelong Learning (ALL) program. “There is a need in the valley and the state for support for adults on the autism spectrum.”

ALL is being set up using state grant money and operating with a license from the Department of Human Services’ Office of Developmental Programs. Kleinman noted the need for such programs has grown dramatically for two primary reasons: a sharp increase over the last decade in the diagnosis of autism spectrum, and an ongoing move by the state to steer away from group-based programs and integrate those getting services into society at large.

“They want these individuals integrated,” Kleinman said. The problem is that, while state law allows students with special needs to stay in high school and get support until they turn 21, help after that is a patchwork of options at best. And it’s rarely, if ever, tailored to those with autism.

The plan: “When individuals are referred to us, they go through an assessment to determine strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes,” Kleinman said. The program then looks for training, volunteer opportunities and jobs that fit with the client’s abilities.

The program was initially developed separate from Misericordia, according to Frank Mariano, a consultant who previously spent years as a special education administrator in public schools, including Hazleton Area and the Luzerne Intermediate Unit. Becoming part of Misericordia’s Autism Center dramatically increases options for future clients.

“The campus has so much to offer,” Kleinman said. “There are opportunities in buildings and grounds, the library, the athletic program.” Clients with suitable skills and interests could volunteer for employment opportunities right on campus.

But ALL is also setting up opportunities “with businesses in and out of the university,” Mariano added. And the jobs have to be positions the employer would have filled with or without involvement in the program.

“We can’t make up work for them,” said Mariano. “It has to be a real job, and it must pay minimum wage.” ALL can, if needed, provide a job coach to help the client transition into the work.

The program is currently waiting for referrals from state or private agencies, Mariano said. It can serve up to 10 people on what would be considered a “full-time” basis. But it’s possible to help more, he added, because some people may require service only part of the day — getting a job coach for a part-time job, for example.

For more information, contact Kleinman at 570-674-8200 or email [email protected]


By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

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