Rutgers University Hires Dr. Christopher Manente to Oversee Development of Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services Vocational and Residential Programs

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Dr. Christopher Manente, Ph.D., BCBA, will serve as the Founding Executive Director for the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services.

Rutgers University recently hired Dr. Christopher Manente, Ph.D., BCBA, as the Founding Executive Director for Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services’ (RCAAS) to continue development of a state-of-the-art complex designed to provide vocational training and clinical services to 60 adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Furthermore, the center will include a residence designed to house 20-30 adults with ASD, as well as 20-30 Rutgers University graduate students from diverse academic backgrounds who will all receive immersive training in providing support to adults with autism.

The RCAAS programs were designed to address the deficiency in resources for adults with autism. While the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to provide individualized educational programming to students with special needs, those services are no longer available once the child reaches the age of 21. Many unsupported adults with ASD struggle to meet their basic requirements once they are on their own, and as a result, find themselves unable to successfully enter the workforce or acquire housing.

“The lack of opportunities for community integration for most adults with Autism is not so much an educational issue as it is an accessibility issue,” says Dr. Manente. “Taking away supports and services designed to encourage community integration for an individual with ASD after the age of 21 is akin to taking away the wheelchair from a person with paraplegia just because they turn 21”.

Dr. Christopher Manente, an alumnus of Rutgers University, enters the Executive Director position with over a decade of teaching experience in the special education field. In addition to serving as the Rutgers Graduate School of Education Adjunct Professor, he has also published articles in peer-reviewed journals, co-authored book chapters, and presented at local and national conferences on issues related to special education and autism.

The new 12,500 square foot RCAAS day program facility will provide many opportunities for program participants to hone their skills related to community-based employment and independent living.. The day center will offer life-skills amenities, including a full commercial kitchen, computer room, conference rooms, laundry facilities, game room, and teaching areas. The second RCAAS building to be constructed will be an apartment-style residence hall with two-, and three- room accommodations with full kitchens, as well as dedicated dining, living and laundry rooms.

The RCAAS complex will be located on the Douglass Campus in New Brunswick, and provide a comprehensive series of services designed to aid adults between the ages of 21 and beyond in developing the skills to lead productive, fulfilling, and largely autonomous lives. The individualized curricula will be designed to address the support needs of adults with autism at all points on the spectrum.

The program will offer Rutgers graduate students the opportunity to work with adults with ASD in a fully integrated environment. Upon program completion, the students will have had real-life experience both living with, and actively supporting, diverse people with ASD.

“These students will receive world class training in what it takes to support adults with autism in community settings. They can go into the world and get jobs in other agencies where they can be agents of change and boost the quality of services that are provided,” said Dr. Manente.

Rutgers University is currently raising funds for the new complex, which will cost an estimated $35 million.

To learn more about the RCAAS residential and vocational initiatives, please visit: http://rcaas.rutgers.edu/

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Christopher Manente