In the early years of the autism diagnosis, autism was thought by some to be a mental illness caused by poor parenting in the form of “refrigerator mothers” rather than a developmental disability caused by a difference in neurological type. Although this inaccurate idea about autism’s roots was disproven after much effort on the part of advocates, one of the results of the process to get rid of the “refrigerator mother” concept was a tendency on the part of many in the autism community to want to shy away from the world of mental health.
Many young adults with developmental disabilities want what most young adults want: economic stability, to belong to a community, pursue their interest, get their own place and do meaningful work. Levels of supports, benefits and services can vary from state to state. Families and individuals need to know how to access what is needed.
Traditionally, human service agencies hired case managers to support families and individuals with disabilities. However, research and practice have shown the model to be too passive and often ineffective for families. Therefore, a new model of support is emerging called Systems Navigation, in which families are taught and mentored to become advocates and active brokers of their own unique services and supports.