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Bucks County Courier Times

The Coffeehouse Center of Bucks County at Oxford Valley Mall is more than just a place for young adults with mild autism disorders.

At the Coffeehouse Center of Bucks County, members can’t get a drink, but they can learn how to balance a checkbook.

If they don’t feel like playing a board game or surfing the Internet, that’s fine. They can hit the food court next door at the mall, or sit in on a workshop on conflict resolution, building friendships or dating advice, the things young adults need to learn to live on their own.

What was once a casual, drop-in center where young adults with mild autism disorders could practice social skills, the coffeehouse has undergone a major expansion into a formal and comprehensive program designed to promote self sufficiency.

Bucks County ranks third in Pennsylvania – behind Montgomery County and Philadelphia – in the number of school-age children receiving special education services for autism disorders, a developmental disability that interferes with cognitive function, communication and social behavior.

There were 104 Bucks County students between the ages of 17 to 21 with autism disorders receiving special education services as of the 2008-09 school year, which represents roughly 10 percent of the more than 1,100 school-age children with an autism diagnosis. It represents a 2 percent increase over the previous school year.

People with Asperger’s syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder experience milder symptoms than those with classic autism and often have above average intelligence. So it’s more difficult for them to fit in because outsiders might not realize they have a disorder.

Someone with Asperger’s, for instance, might fixate on a particular subject; they’ll interrupt or dominate conversations. They avoid eye contact. A lack of coping skills, social graces and judgment ability makes it harder for them to fit into the community and develop relationships. They can lose their temper easily, overreact to minor problems and lack personal boundaries so they can be easily manipulated.

Most autism support services typically target early childhood interventions, but young adults also face major challenges adapting to daily routines once they are no longer in a structured daily school environment.

Read in Full:  http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/news_details/article/262/2010/july/14/a-place-to-discover-their-independence.html



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