Sen. Roberto Menendez (D- NJ) has introduced a new bill to improve supports for students transitioning from special education services to life outside of the school setting.
“For too many young people with autism spectrum disorders, the end of high school means the end of the support and skills training they need to succeed in the new world of adulthood,” Sen. Menendez said in a news release. “We need a national response to ensure that resources are available to enable these young adults to lead the productive, fulfilling lives they deserve.”
The bill, titled the Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence and Navigation Act of 2013, or the AGE-IN Act, requires federal funding for research and evaluation of services for young people “aging” out of support systems. It also would require the creation of a national strategic plan for tackling the problem.
Roughly 50,000 people with autism spectrum disorders age-out of special education services each year, according to the news release. Less than half of those individuals are participating in either secondary education or employment within 3 years, and just 35 percent receive any any additional education within 6 years.
“Senator Menendez has been a leading champion for the autism community in Congress and the AGE-IN Act shows he is closely attuned to the pressing needs of our families,” said Peter Bell, executive vice president for programs and services for Autism Speaks, in a news release. “Many thousands of young adults with autism are now ‘aging out’ of the daily supports they receive through the public education system, and need help with employment, housing, transportation, higher education and other services. Living at home with aging parents is simply not an option in many cases.”
In May, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced a different bill focused on improving transition services. The Harkin bill would require state vocational rehabilitation agencies to set aside at least 10 percent of their funding to provide “pre-employment transition services” for students with disabilities, according to Disability Scoop.