Manassas, VA – As the number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder continues to explode, Didlake, Inc is working to identify the services those children will need as adults. Manassas-based Didlake, Inc provides employment, training and rehabilitative services for approximately 1,400 adults with a wide variety of disabilities. Now the organization is planning for a huge increase in demand for services tailored to the needs of adults with autism. John Craig, Vice President of Rehabilitative Services, says “there’s a lot of uncertainty about the reason for the increase in autism diagnoses among children, but what is certain is that as these children reach adulthood they will need services tailored to their specific needs – including some services that have yet to be developed”.
Didlake is Virginia’s leading employer of people with disabilities. Most of its employees work on contracts for federal government agencies. Didlake currently serves and/or employs 33 people with autism. Says Craig, “You just can’t make generalizations about Autism Spectrum Disorder. Unlike some intellectual disabilities, the symptoms and behaviors vary wildly from one individual to another. We do know that people with autism can be very successful in the workplace, especially when the people they are working with have some insights into how a person with autism communicates and learns. In other words, to help them succeed, we need to do some learning ourselves”.
To facilitate this process Didlake’s Director of Community Services, Andrew Clarke, recently completed his Post-Baccalaureate Graduate Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders at Virginia Commonwealth University. Two other staff members are currently participating in the program. As part of his studies Clarke completed a 20-hour practicum where he addressed socialization and communication skills for five adults with autism currently enrolled in Didlake’s Community Inclusion Program. He also completed a research paper on the current state of Autism Spectrum Disorder services in Virginia and the United States with respect to residential, employment and education programs. Chief among his conclusions was the fact that an organized approach to services for adults is yet to emerge. Clarke and Craig are now spearheading the planning efforts to apply Didlake’s widely recognized expertise in disability services to this specialized field. Didlake has created a database of autism resources throughout the state and is planning a fall event to bring multiple experts together to look at the future for adults with autism. Clarke, who is continuing his preparation with an M. Ed in Autism Spectrum Disorder and pursuing Board Certification in Applied Behavior Analysis, anticipates a wave of adults with autism exiting the school system in 2014. He remarked, “When we started looking at this topic we were surprised to learn how just how little was available in the way of services or information resources for adults with autism. A short time from now there’s going to be a huge wave of demand, and we intend to be ready”.
Didlake, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation headquartered in Manassas, Virginia. It was founded in 1965 to create opportunities for people with disabilities through services that connect them to employment, education and the community. It provides contract business services for commercial and government customers and has won numerous awards for its facilities maintenance; packaging/ assembly; and administrative services. The organization operates throughout the Washington, D.C. metro area, in the Roanoke Valley and in Greater Hampton Roads. It has approximately 1,300 employees and an annual operating budget exceeding $50 million. Didlake, Inc. is licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, accredited by CARF and proudly serves the nation through the AbilityOne program. Its partners include the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services, local Community Services Boards and United Way of the National Capital Area. For more information go to www.didlake.org