In Quebec, individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have the right to be schooled and receive government support from the ages of 4 to 21. But what happens once they are considered “too old” to qualify for these services?
Helping this growing population of young adults was one of the driving forces behind the specialized Young Adult Support Program (YASP), an innovative pilot project at Ometz.
First launched in 2015, Ometz developed YASP for 18-30 year olds living with high functioning autism spectrum disorder or mild intellectual challenges often coupled with mental health issues.
“Each of these young adults falls between the gaps with regards to public services,” says Amber-Lee Shattler, a Case Manager in Mental Health Support Services who is currently leading the program. She explains this often puts a lot of pressure on the parents to ensure their children receive the proper support and find their place in the community.
The new program offers clients wraparound services, including case management, counselling and support, advocacy to assure all available public resources are accessed, and workshops to help improve independent living and social skills—as well as pursue personal and vocational life goals. There are currently 20 young adults enrolled in the program and Shattler says, a growing wait list.
“Some individuals come to us with existing diagnoses, and others shared that they often struggled with academic and social pursuits, but with no formal diagnosis,” she says. “Most communicated a need for intensive support and accompaniment, as they require help navigating in their communities.”
Shattler says that often means teaching her clients basic life skills such as creating healthy and affordable meal plans to accompanying them on simple errands, such as going to the grocery store and learning to use Montreal’s public transit system. Working one-on-one and in groups, Shattler’s clients can take courses in computer literacy and participate in a vocational assessment program. Every second week, she hosts a cooking workshop where they all work as a team to decide on the menu, cook and eat together, and as she quips, perform the final and least favorite task: the clean-up!
“Group work is so beneficial,” says Shattler, adding she’ll be hosting two more life-skills workshops in the coming weeks—one on nutrition and exercise and the other on time management. As she explains, the major objective of YASP is to support her clients by increasing connection to community, encouraging social interaction, promoting autonomy and equipping them with necessary life and coping skills.
“Our goal is movement,” she says. “To move forward in terms of their goals and independent living.”