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Dr. Meira Orentlicher Discusses Transition to Adulthood for Young Adults With Autism

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, June 4, 2019 – On Tuesday, June 4th, Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices hosted a free workshop at Touro College in Manhattan. Sponsored by the NYC Council, the workshop was one of many held throughout the year by Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices, a NYC-based model school and center for children with autism and related conditions.

Titled “Supporting the Transition of Students With Autism From School to Adult Life in the Community,” the workshop was presented by Dr. Meira L. Orentlicher, a Professor and Associate Chairperson of Research and Scholarship in Touro’s Occupational Therapy Department. Dr. Orentlicher has extensive experience helping students with special needs in their transition from school to adult life. Prior to joining Touro, she worked as a Transition Coordinator at the Research and Training Institute of the National Center for Disability Services in Albertson, NY. In that role, Dr. Orentlicher developed transition plans and supervised job developers and job coaches in a transition program designed for students with special needs.

In Tuesday’s workshop, Dr. Orentlicher shared valuable, practical insights and strategies for helping students with autism transition from school to adult life. In her presentation, Dr. Orentlicher discussed individualized planning for community integration, partnering with parents and service agencies, and promoting student self-determination. She also emphasized the importance of focusing on the strengths and abilities of children with autism and other special needs, rather than their handicaps.

“We want to decrease the focus on the deficits that the child has,” she said. “We are so trained to give these developmental tests and focus on what needs to be fixed. We really need to identify the positive resources.”

As examples from her own experience, she shared several inspiring stories of students with autism and other conditions who have thrived when their strengths were appreciated and encouraged by teachers and family members. Michael, a student with severe, non-verbal autism and violent outbursts, experienced a significant improvement in his behavior once his teachers discovered his passion for cleaning and organizing. Michael channeled this enthusiasm into a part-time job at Costco, and later at his uncle’s restaurant. Dr. Orentlicher also noted the example of Rachel, a student with special needs who expanded her passion for art into her own business venture, and Jessica and Erica, two young women with Down’s Syndrome who became close friends, and spoke about the importance of understanding and acceptance regarding individuals with special needs.

Dr. Orentlicher emphasized the need for “circles of support,” i.e., a network of friends, family, and professionals for young adults with special needs, who meet regularly, assist in planning, problem-solving, and accomplishing tasks, and provide support to help young adults achieve their goals and dreams.

Dr. Meira Workshop for Shema Kolainu - Hear Our Voices

Dr. Orentlicher also advocated self-determination, which entails helping young adults with special needs develop concrete plans on how to achieve their goals, and encouraging them to evaluate their own performance in reaching those goals. She noted the value and importance of community, facilitating the participation of these young adults in social life, and educating people in the young adults’ environment to increase their understanding of the disability. Dr. Orentlicher fielded questions from attendees relating to education and employment for young adults with special needs.

———– Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices founded by Dr. Joshua Weinstein, offers a broad spectrum of evidence-based education and therapeutic programs to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, (ASD) and related disabilities in a warm and nurturing environment. A nonpublic, nonprofit, multi-cultural school, we provide quality treatment, education, professional training and mentoring.

This past year the workshops were attended by hundreds of people and have proven to be very successful. SKHOV thanks the New York City Council for making this possible by providing the necessary funds for this program.

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