BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – More than five million adults in the U.S. have autism spectrum disorder, according to the CDC. It’s a life-long condition and for many adults will lead to on-going services and support.
At the corner of 6th and Morton Street in Bloomington, you’ll find CIP or College Internship Program.
A facility to help people like Katelyn Snider.
“I cried when I first visited,” Snider told us.
She moved from Oklahoma and away from her family for this program. It’s designed to helps adults 18 to 26 years old on the autism spectrum or with other learning differences.
“I was going from one job to the next,” explained Snider, “I was finding that I was very low in my life, I was looking for something that could help me.”
The students not only learn here but live here. A team of experts help the students in a supported apartment living environment through a curriculum that focuses on employment, academics, and social skills.
“Students are able to practice what it is their challenges are in the community and have direct support,” said Ashley Lehman, the Program Director for CIP. She explained some of the services they offer, “Advising, which encompasses banking, budgeting, menu planning, nutrition, healthy sleeping habits.”
According to the organization Autism Speaks, many young adults with autism don’t receive any healthcare for years after seeing their pediatrician and nearly half of 25 years old’s with autism have never held a paying job.
Lehman and her team are working to fix that.
“We are really trying to allow our students to have the self-confidence and self-awareness to be able to self-advocate for what it is that their diagnosis is, but also to be able to live authentically, happily and independently,” she said.
The pandemic forced CIP to adapt quickly with safety measures, because they had to. Their students, like Kameron Breedlove, rely on these services.
“I think the biggest thing that I struggled with in terms of before coming here was mental health,” said Breedlove.
With April being Autism Awareness Acceptance Month, CIP wants people to not only focus on the awareness but understand why acceptance is so important.
“I was able to gain that independence that I needed,” Snider added.
Breedlove said, “We want to be respected and understood.”
There are multiple resources in Central Indiana for those with autism or learning differences, that you can seek out for help.
The Autism Society of Indiana has many programs and links to resources online. On their website it states, “ASI exists to ensure that every individual and every family affected by autism in the State of Indiana receives the high-quality services they deserve.”
There’s also the Indiana Autism Alliance. According to their website, “The ultimate goal of our organization and this website is to supply and link parents and caregivers with the best autism information possible.”