I am pleased to see the steady evolution of “Autism Awareness Month” to “Autism Acceptance Month,” as what really needs to be celebrated are the enormous contributions of people with autism to our society.
We proudly operate a “post 21” program known as Adult Community Services, in which we teach young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities about life skills and direct them into competitive employment. Through this skills program, people 21 years of age and older have been able to hone their talents in the workplace, while earning a paycheck to be self-sustainable.
Yet – as the state continues to expand capacity at schools, businesses and public events as more residents become vaccinated – these critical post-21 programs have not been permitted to open. Countless numbers of people with autism are remaining at home, as opposed to learning a trade or life skill, or going to a workplace each day.
It remains unclear how New Jersey can proudly celebrate “Autism Acceptance Month,” while so many people with this developmental disability are not permitted under state order to participate in on-site education or go to a job through our program.
As we are now in the 14th month of this crisis, the volume of lost opportunity for this population is both immeasurable and unconscionable. If we are truly to “accept” the many talents of people with autism, let’s give them a fighting chance to showcase all they can do.
Superintendent of Schools
Educational Services Commission of New Jersey