AP NEWS

Classes fill service gap for developmentally disabled

June 23, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A nonprofit organization called Nebraska Transition College is trying to fill a service gap for young adults with autism or other developmental disabilities.

The program is designed to aid people who might not qualify for state services or who have joined a long waiting list for help in developing social, emotional and work skills to land jobs and become independent.

“What we’ve got is a gap between high school and that next step,” said founder and executive director Stuart Stofferahn. “Life is set up for the neuro-typical person. That’s fine, except there’s not a whole lot of programming to allow us to help people norm to that center.”

He told the Lincoln Journal Star that the idea for Nebraska Transition College arose after a conversation with a cousin who has an adopted son with fetal alcohol syndrome, which manifested itself much like autism. She told Stofferahn she didn’t know what would happen to her son after she died.

“That hit me pretty hard,” Stofferahn said.

He modeled Nebraska Transition College after programs in Minnesota and Arizona and had to find the right teachers, develop curriculum and secure a place for classes.

He found the space at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, which offered classrooms. The titles of the first two classes: Soft Skills to Pay the Bills and Unlocking Your Best Self.

Nebraska Transition officials intend to add a class about conflict resolution, Stofferahn said, which can be a particular challenge for people who often have hard times reading facial expressions or understanding sarcasm.

“Quite honestly the courses we’re teaching are courses we could all use,” he said.

How quickly Nebraska Transition College can expand depends on fundraising and grant awards.

The first courses cost $149 each, well under the more than $1,000 Stofferahn said it costs to offer them and keep the teacher-student ratio low. The program will charge $269 for classes beginning in October with the hope that the donor base will grow enough to keep the students’ cost at about that rate, he said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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