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Local mother discusses children with autism transitioning into adulthood

Our series on Autism awareness continues with a look at what happens after a child with autism becomes an adult.

Posted: Apr 22, 2021 4:06 PM
Updated: Apr 26, 2021 3:39 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — 18-year-old Tommy Sondgerath is an outgoing, charismatic teenager.

"Don't forget two things I love, he said. "Basketball and Disney."

In a few short years, he'll graduate from Harrison High School.

"Over the next two to three years, because he's only 18, he will be taking some classes and transitioning into more and more work," said his mother Kate Sondgerath.

However, the thought of that worries her.

"A lot of times they call it 'the cliff','" said Sondgerath. "A kid turns 22, and where's all the services?"

Tommy was diagnosed with autism at age three. Since then, Kate and her husband Will have been an advocate for him, but they are concerned about Tommy's future as an adult.

"The school supports us a lot and supports him a lot, and we won't have that," she said.

Tommy is learning life skills and getting to work through programs at Harrison High School, and Kate hopes it's enough to give him the skills to thrive after high school.

"Develop those skills so that maybe he can live in a supported living situation," Sondgerath said.

However, she feels more could be done to help adults with autism.

"It's a constant worry," she explained. "You know? We don't have millions of dollars to put into a special needs trust at all."

Tommy is on the Medicaid Waiver and Special Social Security, which provide money for services and support.

However, Kate said it doesn't cover everything he needs.

"It's not enough, frankly, for long term," Sondgerath explained. "More money needs to be devoted to it."

Kate said being a parent of a child with autism transitioning to adulthood is tough, and she wants to see change when it comes to life after age 22.

Until that happens, she said she'll do everything possible to reach her ultimate goal for Tommy.

"Happy and independent as he needs to be," she said.

For more information about autism resources, click here.

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