Twenty years after a sharp rise in autism rates, thousands of California children are aging out of special education. Each one enters adulthood with a unique combination of social deficits that promises a challenging life, even with support.
Roland Ricketts was diagnosed with autism as a toddler. He lives with his parents, whose approach to their son's autism was once controversial. They taught him to modify his self-stimulating behavior to become a functioning member of society.
Jackie Armstrong is 27. She lives in her own apartment with staff help seven hours a day. Jackie juggles classes at Sierra College while working on an electronic assembly line at PRIDE Industries.
Freddie Topete barely speaks. He can't dress himself or brush his teeth. This severely autistic 20-year-old transferred into the Sac City Community Transition Program at Sacramento State last fall.
Steve Baxter wasn't diagnosed with autism until his early 40s. Unable to hold a job, he's reliant on government assistance. Steve lived with his mother until her death a few years ago. Now, he lives with a roommate.
Naomi Halm just learned to walk. At age 4, her parents are still waiting for her to talk. Since Jennifer and Chris Halm recognized that their daughter's development was delayed, they've had to cope with the reality that their child is different.
19-year-old Anthony Kouklis' dream job would be working at a video store. Now he works part time at a coffee shop down the street from The Duplex, an Adult Transition Program he attends each weekday. He describes high school as a violent "nightmare."