Aging Out – The Crossroads Faced by Children with Autism

Parenting is tough.  There’s no two ways around it.  Those who claim it takes a village understood a thing or two about the struggles and challenges that come with raising a tiny little gushy baby into a productive member of adult society.  As parents, we talk about our kids and bounce ideas off one another; we look for common ground and learn from the collective whole, even if those conversations take place under the bright lights of a baseball field during extra innings or while being in charge of crafts during the classroom party.  We bond over similar experiences and try to help each other out with those that are unique.  I have more than one friend who has a child with autism, each of whom is navigating a complicated path that is as unique and special as their child.  I’ve learned a thing or two as we talk about the issues they face, the challenges growing ever more complicated as their children reach the age of adulthood and pathways end or become less clear.  I have learned so much – and been able to offer so little – an ear to listen and shoulder to lean on all that I am qualified to give sometimes. 

As my friends’ children grow and approach the end of their high school years, I was struck by an issue that is not publicly discussed as often as the need for early intervention and pediatricians’ warning signs.  What happens after graduation?  What happens to these children when their time in the public school system ends and they face a crossroads?  The “aging out” issue had been written about in national publications, but I wanted to learn more about what occurs here, in Kansas City.  I learned a great deal and shed more than a tear or two along the way.  For my investigation into this important issue, please see my article in the June issue of 435 Magazine: Aging Out