Locals Prepare for 'Tsunami' of Adults with Autism

Hundreds of thousands of children with autism will soon reach adulthood. Strive Community is here to help.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that in the United States 730,000 individuals under the age of 21 have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In just a few years, this wave of autistic children will be reaching adulthood.

Maplewood mom and special education aide Jeannine Contreras likens the coming tide of adults with autism to a tsunami. "The rate of autism has grown tenfold over the last 20 years," writes Contreras, "and yet the shocking reality is that very little planning has gone into what happens when this generation reaches adulthood with no place to go."

Contreras says that in New Jersey there are already thousands of young adults waiting for services due to the lack of agencies that have specialized programs for adults with autism.

To fill the void, seven local families have joined forces to start a nonprofit group called Strive Community to create an adult day program that utilizes evidence-based, best practices for those with autism spectrum disorder. "Getting such a program up and running is a daunting task with the amount of funds required for start up, let alone long term operations. But it’s doable." Contreras says that other programs originally started by parents serve as models—and those pioneering groups are generous in sharing their experience. 

Strive Community envisions replicating the gold standard of applied behavior analysis (ABA) set by Princeton Child Development Institute whose program for adults stemmed from parent advocacy. PDCI uses applied behavior analysis in both their day program and family-centered group homes. Quest Autism and Alpine Learning Group have also lent support and advice to Strive Community.

“We all share a commitment to the autism community and to extending best-practices to adult programs,” says Strive parent, Therese Ojibway of Maplewood.

What distinguishes Strive Community is the level of commitment of the families in their personal and professional lives. For example, Lisa Rader of South Orange, who spearheaded the group and now serves as Board president, earned her Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis at Caldwell College and additionally became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in order to work with families in home-based ABA treatment programs. Another Strive parent, Jonah Zimiles, left his law practice and earned an MBA at Columbia University in order to open and operate WORDS Maplewood Bookstore, which provides job-sampling opportunities for adolescents with autism—besides being an awarding winning bookstore!

Contreras says all the Strive Community founding families hold "a deep commitment not only to their own children with autism but to wider the autism community as well. Now as Strive Community, they are united in striving to meet an urgent need for adults with autism: a state of the art adult day program using applied behavior analysis and family-centered residential services."

Strive Community will be holding a fundraising event at Arturo’s the evening of September 12. Just mention Strive Community when you are either dining in or taking out and Arturo’s will donate 10% of its proceeds to Strive.


For further information about Strive, contact Therese Ojibway at (973) 762-1393 or Jeannine Contreras at (973) 761-9119.

Anne Dachel September 10, 2011 at 06:29 PM
Dr. Thomas Insel, head of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) created by Congress to deal with autism, has said that 80 percent of Americans with autism are under the age of 18 and he warned that we need "to prepare for a million people who may be in need of significant services." Nothing is being done to handle the approaching tsunami of dependent adults that will descend on social services in the coming years. The IACC now calls autism "a national health emergency." It's well past the time we made finding the cause a priority. Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism
Anne Dachel September 10, 2011 at 06:40 PM
It's amazing that everywhere there are reports on the exponential increase in autism but no one is giving us a plausible reason why it's happening. September 9, 2011 KSTP TV - Minneapolis and St. Paul http://kstp.com/article/stories/s2276969.shtml According to the Department of Education, the number of students diagnosed with some sort of autism in Minnesota more than quadrupled between 2001 and 2010. September 2, 2011 Sacramento Bee: Autism rates quadruple in local schools over last decade http://www.sacbee.com/2011/09/02/3880667/autism-rates-quadruple-in-local.html The current national rate of one in every 110 children is based on studies of eight years, not eighty year olds. No one has ever shown a comparable rate among adults and that simple fact should be scaring us all. For years the autism epidemic has been ignored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials have only recently admitted that the soaring rate is not simply better diagnosing and a broader definition of the disorder. Something in the environment is causing a generation of children to be disabled and no official can tell us why. Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism
Anne Dachel September 10, 2011 at 06:40 PM
In 2009, President pro Tem of the California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, announced the establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Autism (ASD). Steinberg said that their intention is to make autism a "public health priority." See youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dzj8a1jyMg&feature=player_embedded Rick Rollens of the MIND INSTITUTE spoke: "Autism is epidemic in this state as it is throughout the country." "Autism population is skewed dramatically toward young children." "Eight-four percent of the autism population is under the age of 21." "More six and seven year olds in the system than all the adults with autism combined." We were given the mindboggling numbers: There were "14,000 students with autism a decade ago" in California, and "46,000 students today, and growing." Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism


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