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Autism Speaks Releases Assessment Tool for Transition-Aged Youth

New York, N.Y. (June 30, 2014) – Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today released its Community-based Skills Assessment, a new transition assessment tool to help parents and professionals measure the skill levels and abilities of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) beginning at age 12 and continuing through adulthood.
 
The transition from school services to adulthood can be challenging for individuals with ASD and other disabilities. The Community-based Skills Assessment, developed through a contract with Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, is designed to help parents and professionals identify areas of instructional priority so that teams can develop comprehensive transition plans for those with ASD. While employment support needs of individuals are addressed through internships and work experiences, this is the first tool to assess needs in the area of community-based living, from transportation to financial management to peer relationships and more.
 
The assessment tool uses both a criterion-based observation and an interview-based process to measure an individual’s knowledge, skills and behaviors. It focuses on critical areas of functional life skills for transitioning adolescents with ASD, such as career path and employment, health and safety, socialization and communication, and home living skills. Parents and professionals can download it at www.AutismSpeaks.org/family-services/community-based-skills-assessment 
 
“As the numbers continue to grow, Autism Speaks is working hard to expand the resources and services available to young adults and adults in the autism community,” said Lisa Goring, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. “This tool will be extremely valuable to young adults with autism, their families and professionals in their efforts to create full lives as they transition to adulthood. We are very excited about the final product from VCU and look forward to seeing the impact this resource has on fully integrating adults with autism into their communities.”
 
"A community-based functional skills assessment is the first critical step to full community integration of individuals with autism spectrum disorder,” said Paul Wehman, Ph.D., professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and director of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. “This assessment tool will enable families and professionals in the community to help persons with autism navigate the challenges and complexities of everyday community living."
 
“The need for effective, post-graduation transition planning and implementation for young adults on the autism spectrum has long been considered central to the development of a positive quality of life in adulthood,” said Dr. Peter Gerhardt from the Organization for Autism Research. “The Community-based Skills Assessment represents a significant move forward toward reaching that goal in that it gives individuals on the spectrum, parents and professionals alike a tool by which each individual's strengths, needs and challenges can be identified, prioritized and addressed in a way that supports true community inclusion, employment and a positive quality of life post-graduation.”
 
About Autism
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, and repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 68 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum.
 
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed more than $500 million dollars to its mission, the majority in science and medical research. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit AutismSpeaks.org.
 
About Virginia Commonwealth University
Established in 1983, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (VCU-RRTC) serves as a center of national and international excellence in the field of disability and employment services. The VCU-RRTC played a major leadership role in designing and implementing supported employment, a program now found in every state across the country and over 30 countries worldwide. For over 30 years this center has stayed in the forefront of education and employment services to individuals with disabilities with a concentration on services and supports to individuals with autism. The Center’s professional team, led by Dr. Paul Wehman, are renowned experts and committed to developing and advancing evidence based practices to support and advance individuals with disabilities.