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NBC’s Dateline on Autism & Aging Out: What Next?

April 13, 2015

This weekend NBC's Dateline aired "On The Brink," an hour-long special which focused on autism and the issue of aging out of school-based services.

The transition to adulthood can be an overwhelming experience for any family, but it is often especially difficult for families in the autism community. Many aren't sure of what is to come on the road that lies ahead, and as a result, the journey can seem daunting. 

The documentary Sounding the Alarm tells the story of Kent Martling, a 21-year-old with high-functioning autism who attends Riverview Boarding School in East Sandwich, Mass. At the time of the filming, Kent had only a few days left before his 22nd birthday, when he would no longer be eligible for services through the school system.

“It’s just a sad thing,” says Maureen Brenner, Executive Director at Riverview. “We’re proud of everything Kent has accomplished to date, but boy, would we love to have another few months to help him just master some of these skill areas he’s been working on.”

Brenner notes that while individuals with greater support needs will often receive services through the state after turning 22, “there are people at a higher functioning level like Kent that we describe as ‘falling through the cracks’ and may not have eligibility for services that could make all the difference in their lives,” she said. “If we don’t prepare as a society for that, they aren’t going to be the contributors to this country that they could be.”

Watch Kent’s story below:

Watch the full Sounding the Alarm documentary here.

Autism Speaks has a multitude of resources to help families of individuals with autism prepare for the transition to adulthood:

  • The Transition Tool Kit was designed to serve as a guide to assist families of individuals between the ages of 14 and 22  on the journey from adolescence to adulthood. The kit contains information on topics like self-advocacy, community living, postsecondary education, legal matters and more.
  • The Community-based Skills Assessment, developed through a contract with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, is a tool to help parents and professionals assess the current skill levels and abilities of individuals with autism beginning at age 12 and continuing into adulthood in order to develop a comprehensive personalized transition plan.
  • The Postsecondary Educational Opportunities Guide helps young adults and their families explore the various opportunities and learning environments available after leaving high school. This tool kit offers the best possible resources on the topic of postsecondary education to help families explore all of the various options available.
  • The Housing and Residential Supports Tool Kit was developed to assist individuals and families as they identify and secure appropriate residential supports and services by providing an overview of housing options and tools to help access these services.
  • The Employment Tool Kit provides young adults and adults with autism with tips and tools to help them research, find and keep employment in the current competitive labor market.
  • Autism Speaks is committed to increasing services and expanding opportunities for the rapidly growing population of young adults and adults with autism. To that end, we have launched a Housing and Community Living initiative to increase access to housing and residential services of adults with autism by reducing HCBS waiver wait lists and improving housing vouchers, and to expand the capacity of service providers who care for them. You can read more about our HCL initiative HERE and sign up to join this initiative HERE

For additional resources and information regarding the transition to adulthood, contact the Autism Speaks Autism Response Team at or 888-288-4762 (en Espanol 888-772-9050).