Pam Ruddy stood up in front of a group of parents, professionals and supporters of children with Asperger’s Syndrome on Oct. 11. Commencing the start of her new organization, she addressed the crowd with her typical wide smile.
“Welcome to Easy street”
Though nothing is “easy” when it comes to Asperger’s support, Ruddy is using Easy Street Foundation to help everyone involved.
“Together we are going to take the bumpy road of young adult life that is even more complicated with Asperger’s and pave it towards the success of a healthy and independent life,” Ruddy said.
The Easy Street Foundation focuses on helping Asperger’s patients as they transition into adult life. Ruddy, whose 18-year-old son has AS, said she was motivated to help when she saw the dearth of resources for high-functioning adults with the disease, particularly once they matriculate through the structure and support of the education system. She partnered with local psychological and psychiatric services to create Easy Street as a support and advocacy group for Asperger’s patients.
The group will host quarterly meetings with speakers in the relating medical, legal and professional fields. It will also serve as a forum for caregivers of those with Asperger’s to strengthen themselves and those they provide for.
Asperger’s is considered a segment on the spectrum of high functioning autism, a developmental disorder that impacts social interactions and nonverbal communication. It affects one in 68 children, including one in 42 males.
While in the school system, students with AS can qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a personalized assistance plan that helps them with day-to-day functioning. Although many with Asperger’s have average or above average cognitive and intellectual abilities, they can struggle in collegiate or employment situations without an organized support system.
Ashburn Psychological & Psychiatric Services Director Michael Oberschneider said one in three people with Asperger’s goes on to a college or carrier after high school, but within two years very few are still in it. Oberschneider said they don’t fail because of ability, but because they don’t have the structures and resources necessary for them to succeed.
The goal for Easy Street, Oberschneider said, was for it serve as a sort of IEP for the adult world.
“There’s no reason if you have high functioning autsism or Asperger’s you can’t do great in life,” Oberschneider said. “In fact, my expectation is you will do great in life with constant support and with guidance.”