Receiving a childhood diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be a stressful and confusing experience. Often even scarier, though, is not knowing what will happen when a child with autism reaches adulthood and ages out of the educational entitlement system.  The transition from school-age services often means that necessary services they’ve come to know and rely on significantly diminish, resulting in a situation where people with autism are often relegated to long adult lives characterized by social isolation, unemployment, untreated psychological and physical health conditions, and near complete reliance on parents, family and other caregivers to meet their basic needs. The RCAAS is leading the charge to change that. 

Since its inception in 2016, the RCAAS has established itself as a powerful force and voice in advocating for the needs of adults with autism. Leveraging Rutgers’ vast resources, the RCAAS offers adults with ASD a unique mix of programs within an inclusive university setting that strives to enhance the quality of life for adults on the autism spectrum. According to Chancellor-Provost of Rutgers-New Brunswick, Dr. Francine Conway, “the Center presents a model of what adults with autism can accomplish.”   

It provides adults with autism the tools they need to do what all want human beings want and often take for granted – how to earn a living, participate in their community, navigate everyday interactions and build meaningful relationships. According to Executive Director, Dr. Christopher Manente, “the RCAAS is unique in the world. There is no other university program like ours that is as comprehensive and ambitious in terms of focusing on the success of adults on the spectrum in a multifaceted way.”    

Coupling a global perspective with local outreach, Dr. Manente adds, Another key part of our mission is to drive policy reform so that legislation catches up with funding to support the deluge of adults aging out of the educational entitlement system over the next decade.  It is our responsibility to ensure that these citizens are empowered and supported to lead productive lives.” Dr. Manente has advocated for legislative change on the state and national levels, serving on panels in both Trenton, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.  

 

Service, Training, Research

Our integrative research, training, and service program is unmatched anywhere. Our Center strives to serve as a model for organizations around the world that seek to rise to the challenge of providing services to an ever-increasing number of adults with ASD by working to:

  • Establish a centralized location for academic research by leveraging and expanding on the University's existing interdisciplinary resources in the area of autism
  • Develop comprehensive clinical training and educational programs to prepare Rutgers students to meet the future needs of adults with ASD
  • Provide unparalleled services for adults with ASD in an inclusive and integrated community

Exemplifying GSAPP’s commitment to educational excellence and service to the underserved, the RCAAS is a national model for how universities can become leaders in integrating research, hands-on student training and community inclusion of adults with ASD.  

The RCAAS is also the country’s first program to provide a formal, structured pathway for graduate students who wish to work with this underrepresented population. Working closely with the Center’s participants, these students receive hands-on, evidence-based training, supported by expert faculty clinicians and staff mentors. “Our aim is to make a difference in the lives of all adults with autism by creating a best-practices training program for students who work with adults with ASD,” says Dr. Manente.

The tailored services provided by each of the RCAAS' four distinct, yet collaborative, units exemplify our dedication to the underserved adult autistic population, demonstrating what adults with ASD can accomplish when given the appropriate resources and opportunities.