Boca Raton facility provides safety net for adults on autism spectrum

BOCA RATON, Fla - "One, two, three. lets go," is the shout as 20-year-old Zach races to pick up plastic hoops.

In between games with his friends he doesn't mind bragging, just a little.

"What about your medal," I ask.

"Gold medal," he replies.

Zach is one of  the 150 adults with disabilities under the watchful eye of the Jewish Association for Residential Care (JARC) in Boca Raton.  About 50 of those clients, like Zach, are on the autism spectrum.

On this day, coach Luis Gajardo urges the group on constantly, enthusiastically..

"Being happy is the key for everyone," he said. "They don't know they have been working out."

The people at JARC know that life on the autism spectrum is a marathon for these adults, their loved ones and communities everywhere.

"This year there will be approximately 250,000 adults with autism graduating from high school," said Dr. Debra Hallow, JARC's executive director.  "What happens next?"

What happens next is a huge health policy question where care, compassion, costs and the strain of finances collide. People with autism growing out of their teen years will often need lifetime care and supervision.

"After that many are at home in isolation," she said. "Parents are not necessarily able to know how to find the resources so their adult children can continue to grow and develop."

JARC helps fill that void with a local network of 10 residential homes and day-programs like the one Zach is in.

For Zach and his friends, it's a safety net.

JARC offers our community one more example of the commitment needed for all the lives, all the futures yet to be safeguarded.

"Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism, and programs like ours focus on endless possibilities," said Hallow.


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