Autism: Life after high school

Part 3

HARLINGEN — They’ve struggled through school with the benefit of services and teachers who specialize in working with children with autism.

But what now? They’ve graduated from high school, which was hard enough, and they may have powerful abilities for electronics, mechanics, art or some other field. They question is how to use that skill.

Pamela Downing has spent almost 20 years teaching children who have autism. As has been the case for many years, she knows of several of her former students who are preparing to graduate from high school.

“I’m concerned about what happens once they age out of the system, between 21 and 22 years of age,” Downing said. “I’m worried that they find something that they like to do that gives them self worth.”

There are several colleges being made available to children with autism, she said. However, improving these services will take some time.

The important issue is determining what talent the individual can bring to the workplace, said Dr. Stephanie Sokolosky, a behavioral analyst at S&S Behavioral Consultants LLC. She has an office in Harlingen and McAllen. She works with young adults with autism who are trying to determine how to support themselves.

“What I do is identify their strengths,” said Sokolosky, a former teacher. “Some of them are very smart about computers. Maybe they’re able to retain many facts. What you are doing is finding a place where that would be important.”

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Editor’s Note

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part 3 of a series on autism the Valley Morning Star is running during April, which is National Autism Awareness Month.

Just The Facts

– Lack of or delay in spoken language

– Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (for example, hand-flapping, twirling objects)

– Little or no eye contact

– Lack of interest in peer relationships

– Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play

– Persistent fixation on parts of objects

– Anxiety

Source: Autism Society