Adults With Autism to Benefit From New Employment Center at Rutgers

Adults With Autism to Benefit From New Employment Center at Rutgers

Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services, the first program of its kind in the country, will more than double in size

Craig Lillard of Princeton (left) who works at Harvest in the Institute for Food Nutrition and Health as part of the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services with mentor Doug Stracquadanio.
Courtesy of Rutgers University

The Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved a proposal by the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology to build a new facility for the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services (RCAAS) on Rutgers-New Brunswick’s Douglass campus.

The two-year-old center, the first of its kind at a higher education institution in the United States, currently provides employment, vocational training and other services to 12 participants who commute from home. The expansion will enable the program to serve up to 30 participants. The project, estimated to cost $9.5 million, will be paid for through philanthropic funds.

Christopher Manente, executive director of RCAAS, said, “We are committed to serving adults with autism by providing meaningful paid employment, full integration into the Rutgers community and ongoing research and training related to helping adults with autism lead full lives. We serve as a model that can be replicated at colleges and universities, or within small communities across the country.”

Current participants have paying jobs on campus, five days a week, in food service, horticulture maintenance, university mail services, document and records management, the Rutgers Cinema, computer retail services, and other areas. Participants also benefit from individualized services to help them succeed on the job and maintain their independence in the community.

Every day, Rutgers prepares students, contributes to communities, provides exceptional care for patients, stimulates the economy, and delivers results for New Jersey.
The new facility will include a multifunctional gathering space and vocational training space, administrative offices for faculty and clinical staff and support spaces and provide community-based job training, life skills and recreational opportunities.

Autism and autism spectrum disorder are among the fastest-growing developmental disabilities in the United States. Rutgers-New Brunswick’s Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology created the center to address the well-documented shortage of quality services that help adults with autism lead meaningful and productive lives, and to conduct research that can inform the development of other programs for adults with autism.

The new building will be at the location of the former Corwin Dormitories on Nichol Avenue between Comstock Street and Dudley Road in New Brunswick. Its development will include demolition of the vacant Corwin residential buildings. Groundbreaking is expected later this year.

Rutgers-New Brunswick is a leader in autism research facilities. The Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository, containing the world’s largest collection of autism biomaterials, and the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, which includes an on-campus K-12 day school for children with autism from across New Jersey, are among many research and educational programs for autism at the university.