Campus Notebook

NIU series to explore ‘transitions’ to adulthood for students on autism spectrum

DeKALB – During the first 21 years of their lives, individuals with autism are offered critical support services through their local public schools.

By law, those services must include “transition” planning that begins when the students turn 14½, providing nearly seven years of preparation for the next stage of their lives.

Yet when that assistance ends, many of those young adults and their parents are left with the same question.

Now what?

“It’s a very important topic right now because there have been some changes in the legislation,” Sarah Johnston-Rodriguez, associate professor of Special Education at Northern Illinois University, said in a news release. “One change goes back to 2004: the IDEA law on special education, which changed the language to really focus on transition and on meaningful outcomes in the three areas schools are accountable for: community living; careers and employment; and postsecondary education.”

Modifications to the Higher Education Act, meanwhile, require that access to postsecondary education is available to students with intellectual disabilities.

The NIU College of Education’s upcoming Community Learning Series – “Transitioning to the Adult World: Connecting the Dots for Young Adults with Autism” – will help parents, students, teachers, employers and future educators make sense of it all.

Scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 10, the event takes place at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Road. A reception begins at 5:30 p.m.

Free and open to the public, the event will feature six forward-thinking panelists who will share their innovative and exemplary approaches, supports and successes that have empowered their students to achieve productive lives. They are:

• Khushbu Davi, program coordinator, Parents Alliance Employment Project

• Kori Jung, teacher/case manager, District 214 Transition Program, Arlington Heights

• Christine Putlak, assistant director, A.E.R.O. Special Education Cooperative

• Benji Rubin, attorney, Special Needs Legal and Future Planning, Rubin Law Offices

• Toni Van Laarhoven, professor, NIU Department of Special and Early Education

• Traci Van Laarhoven, vocational coordinator, Waubonsie Valley High School

For information, call 815-753-1619 or email

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