JF&CS News Fall 2012

path in the woodsNancy* lives in Wellesley with 28-year-old son James* who is on the autism spectrum. Her busy high tech career requires extensive travel, and she is nearing retirement. Nancy is wracked with worry for her son, asking, "What's going to happen to James?"

Half a million children with autism will reach adulthood in the next decade, experts say. It's an issue that parents, policymakers, and care providers are scrambling to address. JF&CS is on the leading edge with two new programs, one designed to assist adults with autism and one for those with schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions.

"There are so few resources out there for adult life, and it's a big problem. These families aren't prepared for what's to come," said Shayna Fel, LCSW, Clinical Social Worker. "I tell parents I can help get their adult children unstuck and figure out a plan for moving forward."

The new initiatives – Care Coordination and Recovery Supports for adults with psychiatric conditions and Care Coordination and Coaching for those on the autism spectrum – were developed to provide assistance with activities of daily living, care and benefits coordination, case management, coaching and life skills training, family consultation, resource navigation, and peer support.

JF&CS is now able to serve clients like James and his family. James' doctor pointed Nancy to JF&CS, and Shayna began to meet with James every two weeks to "help get him more into the world." She set up a series of dinners and social engagements including a weekly visit to a group home for game nights. She lined up a volunteer position at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and arranged for him to meet with a job development coach, who found him another volunteer position at Hebrew Senior Life. James does office work, delivers the mail, and helps with patient care. "James really enjoys the work there. He has a peer group and feels productive," said Nancy.

Now celebrating its one-year anniversary, the program has grown rapidly and serves more than twenty clients. In addition to coaching and life skills training, Shayna works with parents to help them understand what it means to parent an adult with autism, helping them navigate resources and find out what kind of support is available in the community.

"Shayna's follow through is amazing. She did everything she said she would do. I evaluated services for people with disabilities and I can't say enough about JF&CS. They really care and they support the whole family."

Holly Young, LICSW, Director of Clinical Programs for the JF&CS Disability Services, supervises a similar program for adults with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, and other mental illnesses. These adults come to JF&CS looking for help with every day activities – everything from finding a safe place to live to managing medications and getting a job.

"With many state programs closing down, our group can provide comprehensive, clinically informed services. We work with clients based on how they're functioning in the community to assess and match the level of services that meet their needs," said Holly.

Now in its second year, her team sees 85 adults. "We're helping them to not only stabilize but to actually move forward in their lives," said Holly.

* Names changed to protect privacy.

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.