There are many services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, but Jewish Child Care Association’s Compass Project is unique because we specifically target the period when an adolescent/young adult transitions from high school to the next step. While school districts support families and individuals in high school, there is often a huge cliff awaiting families once their child graduates. Compass helps them avoid the cliff and find a path toward a productive life that is right for them.
Starting with Questions
Compass helps the family and individual understand their choices, rights, and options. Families need help facing and allowing their young adult or adult child to begin to advocate for themselves. This is easier said than done.
Can the child go to college? And which college program is the right fit? Compass/ Bridges has staff on the campuses of 10 different metropolitan colleges and universities (including Adelphi, Queensborough Community College, FIT, and Pace in Manhattan) helping students advocate for themselves with their professors as well as participate in various clubs and activities. College is not just an academic experience, but the opportunity to forge new friendships, which is often the biggest challenge for these individuals.
For students who want to test the waters and see what an entry level position would be like, we have internships in the summer and throughout the school year. We provide career assessments to determine suitable career choices. This can occur while the student is in high school or throughout this transition process.
Perhaps the student wants to do a little bit of work and take several college classes. We can help design the best fit. We are also an ACCES VR vendor. This means that once the young adult child graduates high school, New York State offers some supports to attain a job, with coaching for a certain period of time.
Building Social Skills
We know that getting a job and keeping a job are two very different issues. JCCA’s Compass Project offers resume writing, interviewing workshops, and role playing. More than that, we offer social skills building through Club Compass, where individuals go on outings to the city, learn travel training, go out to dinners, and take several overnight trips, including Washington, D.C. and Montauk. Brian M. says of a recent trip, “I had fun walking around town with my friends and buying souvenirs, since I had never been to Montauk before. I also liked having time to sit at the pool and spend time with my friends.” Participants practice their skills and parents get some respite. This January, we will be offering our fourth Birthright trip to Israel. This trip includes participants who are neurotypical siblings as well as individuals who have never been to Israel and are interested in the health field.
Getting and Keeping a Job
Compass helps participants get jobs. Preston Burger was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of four. He attended Princeton University and then pursued several careers. But after losing five jobs in five years, he decided enough was enough. “I realized I was going to need an extra source of support if I wanted to make it in the professional world,” he says. “That’s when I contacted Compass.”
He started working with Evan Oppenheimer, Compass Project Coordinator.
“Evan helped me get to the heart of what I really value and how I can create this in a job situation. We have open-ended discussions about my future goals and also discussed specific skill-building, like practice interviews and resume revision.” Preston now has a job counseling students that he enjoys very much.
Finally, after going to college, possibly living in dormitories, or working part or full time and becoming independent, Compass offers two separate independent living program options: POINT in White Plains, Westchester; and QILP in Forest Hills, Queens. These programs offer young adults the opportunity to continue to cultivate their independence and live in their own apartments, with support from Compass staff. This support may include help with work, cooking, bill paying, and grocery shopping. Developing these skill sets helps participants be part of their community and the larger community. Daniel Braun now sees new opportunities: “What I like best is the chance to live in the city, in an apartment-style program made for high functioning people, with plenty of access to things to do. It is exciting, and Forest Hills is ideal because we don’t need to rely on others; everything is close.”
In the past ten years, Compass has helped more than a thousand families, teens, and young adults understand and access benefits, get internships and competitive employment, socialize enjoy dinners and weekend trips, and forge their own path toward independence.
For more information, please contact 516-729-0066 or visit www.jccany/compass.