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“Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World”

By on Dec 24, 2011 in Food For Thought | 0 comments

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From Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World, a profile in The New York Times of Justin Canha, a high school student who suffers from autism that was written over a period of one year:

“Hello, everybody,” he announced, loud enough to be heard behind the company president’s door. “This is going to be my new job, and you are going to be my new friends.”
…the transition program at Montclair High served as a kind of boot camp in community integration that might also be, for Justin, a last chance. Few such services are available after high school. And Justin was entitled to public education programs, by federal law, until only age 21.

Ms. Stanton-Paule had vowed to secure him a paid job before he left school — the best gauge, experts say, of whether a special needs student will maintain some autonomy later in life. She also hoped to help him forge the relationships, at work and beyond it, that form the basis of a full life.

But more prosaic lessons arose at every turn: when he should present money at the pizza place (not until after he ordered), how close to stand to the person using the weight machine he wanted at the gym (not so close), what to say when he saw a co-worker drinking a Coke (probably not “Coca-Cola is bad for your bones”).
“There’s a prevailing philosophy that certain people can never function in the community,” Ms. Stanton-Paule told skeptics. “I just don’t think that’s true.”

I had tears in my eyes by the time I finished reading this article. It’s just so heartwarming to know that there are educators out there who go to such lengths, to have the courage and the will to fight against the system and give kids the support they deserve. Yet it’s also saddening that in the end it boils down to economics and a budding animator has had to give up his dream (for now).

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