Where do children with autism go after they "age out" of school or graduate?
Tue, 13 Nov 2012 04:55:45 GMT —
Gabriel Tamez is in his final years at San Benito High School and says he likes school, well, just a little bit.
Gabriel is autistic and participates in transitioning into the real world by taking field trips to local stores to help clean.
At McCoy's we're dusting and fixing," says the 20 year old.
Once he ages out of school his options are limited.
"When school's over I play the Playstation 2," says Gabriel.
Maria Elena is Gabriel's mom and is scrambling to find alternatives for her son once he leaves school after he's 21, that TMs as long as the state allows students to stay in school.
That's just another year away.
"When he's aged out of school. He's going to stay home. He TMs been in high school for 8 years," says Maria Elena.
There are some services in the valley for those with disabilities who are too old to be in school, however, most are geared towards the elderly in the form of adult day care centers.
Fred Perez is the Admission, Review and Dismissal Director (ARD) for the San Benito school district and says sending someone like Gabriel there (adult day care) will only reverse all the hard work his family and teachers have done to get him to this point.
"It's very hard to see our students that leave us at 22 go to an adult day care. They're not 60,70 years old like the other people there. They should be with students," says Perez.
"I don't think he'll learn anything there, he'll sit there," says Maria Elena.
That's why San Benito CISD is doing all they can to get Gabriel prepared for the next chapter in his life even bringing in embroidery equipment to help students learn a trade.
"We have students that can take an order, we have students that can fold the clothes. deliver or program on the computer for the embroidery," says Perez.
"My hopes are that he could train, really train because they have skills. I want him to actually go out and work and meet people his age so that way when I'm gone he knows," says Maria Elena.
On the other side of the autism spectrum is a 19 year old Harlingen boy who graduated from high school and is attending his first year of college.
"The transition to TSTC was shaky at first."
Manny Vela is the CEO of Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen and the father of a teen with Asberger's.
Manny Mac, as his family affectionately calls him, was in the top 10 percent of his graduating class and still transitioning into the real world has been a challenge, but at least he's in a learning environment and still moving forward.
"The family counts its blessings for having Manny in our lives. He has made us incredibly compassionate and understanding for people with these challenges," says Vela.
He has taken an active role in fighting for the rights of autistic children more specifically where they can turn to when the bus stops coming. He says there are state funded facilities in Texas that cater to autistic children and others with disabilities, but none south of San Antonio.
"We can advocate with our legislators like Senator Lucio to help create those programs that might give children with challenges, whether they can go to college or not, an opportunity to do something instead of sitting at home"
That's Gabriel's mother's biggest concern.
"I try and attend transition meetings, but a lot of these people that come in live in big cities. This is where my son grew up, this is what he knows sending him out of here would be like a little fish out of water. So I would like something down here in the valley," says Maria Elena.
Since Gabriel can't fight for what he needs on his own, his mom will continue speaking on his behalf about what he needs to live a productive life.
"Somebody who could really look out for their best interests."