On Tuesday, the Autism Speaks National Leadership Summit featured a session led by Executive Vice President of Programs and Services Lisa Goring on critical issues faced by individuals with autism across the lifespan, including transition, employment, housing and community living and safety.
During the workshop, experts spoke about the essential supports required to meet the needs of those on the spectrum in these core areas. Participants were provided with information about the key policy issues across the lifespan in order to arm them with solutions to bring to Congressional offices during hill visits.
“Autism Speaks was pleased to join our partners to share some promising programs and solutions that address the needs of individuals with autism across the lifespan in today’s workshop,” said Goring. “There is a tremendous need for expanded access to resources for the autism community and this was a great opportunity to arm individuals with autism, their family members, friends and service providers with the information they need to successfully advocate for these critical services and supports.”
Panelist Owen Duffy, a college student with autism majoring in microbiology, kicked things off with a very engaging talk about his journey on the path to adulthood. Owen described some of the effective transition services that he credits with helping him graduate at the top of his high school class, as well as the importance of the self-advocacy skills he utilizes to thrive as a sophomore in college. “The only way to end this [speech] is to stop talking,” he said to big laughs from the audience. “However, I am not going to stop talking about how important these services are to me and to other young adults with autism.”
The sessions focused on the needs of the growing number of adults with autism, as well as the safety of the autism population, and highlighted the key policy issues affecting the autism community. Experts emphasized that successful outcomes for individuals with autism can be achieved with effective and essential supports. These supports are often not available or do not adequately meet the needs of those with autism. Participants also learned about the key policy barriers that advocates can address with their local and state politicians in DC or at home.
Experts offered four key asks to Congress that will allow critical supports and services to exist in the amount, scope and quality that is needed across the country:
- Transition: Congress should increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and improve oversight and enforcement of transition services requirements.
- Employment: Congress should ensure that state vocational rehabilitation services are fully funded and improve oversight of these services for adults with autism.
- Housing and Community Living: Congress must establish a permanent financing solution for long-term services and supports so that every adult with autism receives the services they need and increase funding for low-income housing programs.
- Safety: Members of Congress can help pass Avonte’s Law (S. 163) by becoming a co-sponsor. This law, named in honor of Avonte Oquendo, will provide safety resources and expanded support services for individuals with autism, their families and community members.
In addition to facilitators Leslie Long, Autism Speaks vice president of adult services; David Kearon, director of adult services; and Angela Lello, director of housing and community living, panelists included:
- Owen McDuffy, self-advocate
- Carol Schall, PhD., Co-Director, Virginia Commonwealth University Autism Center for Excellence (VCU ACE)
- Christopher Simler, Senior Consultant, Disability Solutions, Ability Beyond.
- Jamie Bass, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, Adult Services Coordinator, The Faison Centers of Excellence
- Robert G. Lowery, Jr., Vice President, Missing Children Division, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children