transition to adulthood
After finishing high school, there is a population of individuals with ASD who may not wish or be prepared to enter the workforce or pursue higher education. Social and recreational programs can serve as a great alternative for these individuals and their families, offering opportunities to develop new skills, create new relationships, and enjoy new experiences.
The Quantum LEAP (QL) recreation program in Cleveland is a great organization that provides socialization, recreation, and athletic activities to people with developmental disabilities, allowing participants to express themselves through recreation and oftentimes, to improve their quality of life through engagement in different events. Participants must be at least 18 years of age, reside in Cuyahoga County, and be eligible to receive services from the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
Quantum LEAP is run by the nonprofit agency Linking Employment, Abilities & Potential (LEAP). LEAP’s mission is to advance a society of equal opportunity for all persons, regardless of disability. The founders of LEAP saw that individuals with disabilities did not have an equal opportunity for recreation in Cuyahoga County and decided to act. Since, the organization created Quantum LEAP, which launched in 2006. What simply started as an annual dance for individuals with disabilities has now evolved into a year-round program, with over 30 different activities that serve upwards of 400 participants throughout the year. Popular activities provided include a walking club, spring outside fun, bocce ball, kickball, softball, and golf. Don’t worry, Quantum LEAP also offers indoor activities once the weather turns cold, such as a bowling league, basketball clinic, aerobics, and more. These activities are offered in the evenings and on the weekends in six weeks-long sessions, taking place throughout the east side of Cuyahoga County in Cleveland, East Cleveland, Mayfield, Solon, and Euclid. Starting in April and ending the second week of October, many of the activities take place outdoors.
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Knowing the best time to prepare your child or young adult for the world beyond high school is tough. However, it is my hope that by implementing the three strategies outlined below, you and your child will gain the confidence you need to navigate the transition process.
Knowing your legal rights is the first strategy. At Disability Rights Ohio, our motto is “we have the legal right of way,” meaning individuals with disabilities have the legal right to be active in society and enjoy every opportunity that all Americans do. While your child is in secondary school, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires students with a disability receive Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) tailored to their individual needs, i.e. special education, protects them. When students leave special education, they step out of the legal protections of the IDEA and into the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
There are several key differences between the IDEA and ADA you need to know. The first is how one’s disability is identified. Under IDEA, the school district is responsible to identify the needs of students who may require special education. Under the ADA, responsibility lies with the person with a disability to “self-disclose” their disability to receive “reasonable accommodations” from employers and college/training programs. To help you learn more about self-disclosing, the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability/Youth (NCWD/Y) has valuable resources on Disability Disclosure.
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College can be a major part of adult life for some people on the autism spectrum, I know it was for me. At college, you have a lot more freedom to make choices that can directly impact your future. One of the things I enjoyed the most during my college years is that my special interests weren’t something that I had to keep to myself. I was able to explore my interests, write academic papers about them, and engage with others around our shared interest in the topic. It was a place where I felt free to be myself. However, that’s not to say that it wasn’t without its challenges. Here are some important things I learned during my time at college that I hope help other individuals who have either just started their journey or intend to begin school soon.
Join groups – Social relationships can be tricky for people with autism. However, college provides a great opportunity to make friends. In college, you can join special interest groups or even create your own. I have a special interest in Japanese history, holidays, and art forms. As a teenager, it was difficult to find people who wanted to talk about obscure topics like Takarazuka (a type of stage performance where women play all roles) and Tanabata (a star festival). However, in college I was able to connect with like-minded people. Through the relationships I forged, I was even able to travel internationally and participate in some of these activities.
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