Nonprofit Goals To Maintain Adults With Autism From Falling Off ‘The Cliff’

ASBURY PARK, NJ – Corey Mohr wakes up at 6 a.m. each day, brushes his teeth, and eats breakfast that he prepares with the help of his mother. Patty Mohr makes sure that he gets dressed before she goes to work.

Then nothing.

“He walks up and down the house,” said Patty Mohr. “Sometimes he goes to the computer, but he has nothing that interests him. He goes from one end of the house to the other. “

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Corey, who lives in Manalapan, is 23 and has autism. He is verbal and can follow instructions, but he needs support. For Corey and others like him, there is little to be had outside of the family unit. Many adults with autism fall off the cliff after finishing formal schooling at 21. Existing adult daytime programs were shut down by the state during the pandemic.

“You have all these special services, then you meet 21 and it’s over,” said Patty Mohr. “You’re on your own.”

A brave new project should change that. The Monmouth Ocean Foundation for Children, a nonprofit organization with a track record of helping youth with special needs, is launching the Achieve Academy for Adults with Autism.

Located on the Wall campus of Brookdale Community College, the academy aims to enhance the educational experience for people with autism over the age of 21.

That’s exactly what Corey Mohr needs, said his mother. At the moment, the whole Mohr family takes care of him every day – Patty, her mother, her husband Charlie and son Dylan work in shifts. You’re stepping on water, and so is Corey.

“I’m very interested in applying,” Patty said of the academy. “I think it’s wonderful.”

“Let our autistic adults work”

The cliff was an emerging problem long before the pandemic, when a generation of young adults with autism moved to a world after school that wasn’t equipped to help them.

“All of a sudden, parents have to feel their way through a confusing maze of ‘what to do with my disabled adult’,” said Tara Beams, board member of the Monmouth Ocean Foundation for Children and an experienced educator for people with special needs. “Our goal is to get our autistic adults to work. Some of them will eventually be able to work independently. Some of them may be able to work with support, maybe with a helper with them. Some can work part-time, but not necessarily full-time because they need other services. “

It is possible. A shining example is the No Limits Café in Middletown, which is almost exclusively occupied by adults with special needs. Beams and her colleagues have contacts in a variety of companies, from Staples to TJ Maxx, offering opportunities to those who are willing.

Achieve Academy would do the prep in a rented Brookdale building in Wall. It must be expanded to include a kitchen area, appropriate furniture and technology, and special training rooms.

“Our goal is to raise $ 5 million for building renovations and hiring, and also to offer scholarships to low-income families to keep costs down,” said Beams. “We are working with Medicaid and the (New Jersey) Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that the grants families receive as their adults get older can be used.”

Nothing is finalized yet, but Beams anticipates an annual tuition fee of about $ 50,000 per year. This includes transport services.

“You could go to private institutions where you would pay $ 100,000 to $ 150,000,” she said.

The academy’s opening schedule depends entirely on fundraising. Beams said the opening class is likely to have 15 to 20 people.

“Closing a big gap”

Eileen Shaklee sees the cliff in the distance. Her son George is 16 years old, has autism and can do a job with the right support.

“He was working before the COVID pandemic,” said Shaklee, a Wall resident. “He started the school program in the community and had various jobs including Bed, Bath & Beyond and the Monmouth University cafeteria. He absolutely loved it. But because of everything that happened, he didn’t work for a year. “

The pandemic has stalled his and other work programs. When Eileen Shaklee heard of the plans for the Achieve Academy, she was excited enough to join the fundraiser.

“My child is happiest when they are working, when they have a schedule, when they know what to do next,” Shaklee said. “That’s why it’s so critical. There are thousands of kids like him in New Jersey who need a place like this. “

This is doubly true after a mostly idle year of pandemics set back progress for George Shaklee, Corey Mohr and many others.

“There is a big gap to fill,” said Eileen Shaklee. “Hopefully that will help.”

© 2021 Asbury Park Press
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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