Shortage of Programs for Adults with Developmental Disabilities; Guest Blog by Crawford Dedman, Special Education Consultant
Shortage of Programs for Adults with Developmental Disabilities
Lately I have been thinking a lot about what happens to students with developmental disabilities when they become adults and leave the education system.
In the province of Ontario, these students are able to attend school up to the age of 21. The reality is that many of these students will not graduate from secondary school. Some graduate and go on to the workplace or post-secondary education (i.e. apprenticeship, college and university programs). For these students, if they have the right supports in place they can manage this transition successfully. However, the students I am concerned about are the ones that do not graduate and have a difficult time transitioning to work and independent living.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit a day-treatment program for children and adults with Autism at the MukiBalm Treatment Centre in Toronto. The children and young adults at the centre have high-needs, including difficult behaviours and sensory needs that require high teacher and education assistant to student ratios. I had the opportunity to meet several students and staff at the centre and I thought they did a wonderful job in providing education and treatment to these students who are unable to attend their local community school.
Often our focus in education is trying to figure out a student’s special education needs early in Kindergarten to Grade 3. In providing treatment programs for young children with Autism, the focus is on getting them into an Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) program before the age of 6 to obtain the maximum benefit from therapy. I as well clearly support intervening early and supporting children early in life. However, when you sit down and talk with dedicated professionals that work with these young adults you get a different perspective.
The perspective I heard is that government is not doing enough to support these children and their families when they become young adults. Waiting lists are long for day programs for young adults that are not able to go onto post-secondary education and/or work. I heard stories of parents having to quit their jobs to stay home and look after their child because they are over 21 and they are on a long waiting list for an adult based program day program.
I do believe that governments are going to have to face some decisions in the future of balancing their spending on programs both for children and adults. To fund one at high levels and then to fund the other at such low levels is a recipe for disaster in the future. Eventually these children will become the young adults that need meaningful programs, services and supports so they too can reach their full potential.
Special Education Consultant
Amy Reinstein, M.S., CCC - SLP