After the initial diagnosis of autism – usually in early childhood – the next big challenge for parents of autistic children is often this question: What happens after school?
Autism Eastern Cape is keenly aware of the concerns of parents ofASD children, whatever their age. To try to address this question, we invited parents of older children on the spectrum – ie who have left school – to a coffee morning in March. One difficulty with addressing the needs of families is knowing who they are, and a second is contacting them. There is no database of “autism families”, nor records, unless their children have attended an autism school. This gives Autism Eastern Cape a huge task. Not only that, but once children leave school, there is no more contact with the school so if there are changes in personal details, then contact information is out of date or wrong. Despite this difficulty, around 20 parents and one or two representatives of institutions working with older children and young adults attended. It was an extremely fruitful morning, with a range of questions and concerns surfacing.
Presenters Chantel Snyman and Gillian McAinsh asked those who attended to give their input on their families’ needs, with a view to devising a future strategy for the organisation. Issues highlighted included further education and training, social opportunities, employment and education. As the needs seemed diverse, Chantel and Gillian followed up after the March 12 meeting by sending a questionnaire out. They noted that a lack of contact information for families with a member on the autistic spectrum, and accept that there are many more families “out there” who are not aware yet of our drive. However, the parents who did respond to the survey asked for assistance in several areas, and the first one to be tackled was a social for young adults.
The plan is to have a young adult social, at which time the young adults can give their input. After all, it is one thing to ask the parents what their children would like, or need, but it is extremely important to find out what the young adults themselves want!