Autism Spectrum Disorder—One Way UCLA is Helping by Cathy Sandeen

Chances are you may have a child, family member, or friend with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

I made a quick trip to Sacramento last week to meet with various legislative staff about educational services for individuals with ASD. You probably are well aware that the ASD population is growing. The recent report of the California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism reminds us: “The dramatic growth in the number of children affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASD) now constitutes a public health crisis. Throughout the state of California, families and systems of care are struggling to meet the needs of individuals with ASD across their life span.”  Full Executive Summary here.

The Commission identified a number of recommendations, including a specific focus on education and vocational training needs of teens and adults with ASD as they transition to independent living and employment. Dealing with ASD is a bipartisan issue that legislators are beginning to address seriously through the Senate Select Committee on Autism.

During my legislative visits I was able to inform key staff of one of our new and more unique programs: Pathway at UCLA Extension, a program that helps meet the needs of the ASD population.

  • Pathway is a two-year, full time, residential certificate program for students with developmental disabilities, providing a blend of educational, social, and vocational experiences
  • Pathway is the first such program in California at a four-year university
  • Students live in student apartments, eat in student dining facilities, and participate in extracurricular activities at UCLA
  • The first class completed its program in June 2009 and 75% of the graduates are currently living independently, including work, internships, or additional education
  • Pathway received the 2009 Outstanding Continuing Education program from the University Continuing Education Association

Pathway is a very successful program that helps young adults with ASD make the important transition to independent living. We plan to expand the program in the coming years.

Of course, in Sacramento I learned what I already knew: the State of California has no funding available to support Pathway at this time. Still, my visit to Sacramento was fruitful in putting Pathway on the radar screen of many individuals with a keen interest in preparing California to serve the growing population of individuals with ASD. I am certain we will find a way to work together in the future to make Pathway more accessible to a broader range of Californians who would benefit from it.

Find more detailed information on Pathway here.

And at the Pathway Blog.

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