Interview: How to Prepare Autistic Children for Adulthood

BY: - 22 Oct '13 | Parenting

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PBS_Best Kept Secret

Janet Mino, a special education teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Newark, NJ won the hearts of autism families when she appeared in the PBS documentary, Best Kept Secret. The documentary features Mino and four autistic minority students who are about to “age out” of the school system.

As their high school graduation rapidly approaches, Mino is determined to help these young men find appropriate placements so they can continue to grow, learn, and be as independent as possible. I was honored to get some insight from Mino on how parents like me can prepare our autistic children for adulthood.

Janet Mino, a special education teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Newark, NJ

Janet Mino, a special education teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Newark, NJ

BMWK:  Ms. Mino, I am honored to be speaking to you. What are the chances that I would get your number from a friend who ran into you at The Lion King on Broadway?

Janet Mino: (laughs) I know right?

BMWK: How did you get your start in special education?

Janet Mino: I have been in special education for 20 years. I’m a parent and I didn’t know anything about autism. The first student who I worked with was in preschool. I remember helping him say his first word and I fell in love with him. This was at the Sawtelle Learning Center.

BMWK: What advice can you give to parents of young children with autism to help them prepare for when their child ages out of the school system?

Janet Mino: I know it’s hard but you have to come together and fight. If you don’t fight, they won’t get anything. I feel for the parents. Go to your IEP meetings and go with someone else. Demand that they start training in middle school. Build on something they can do. Even on the lower end of the spectrum there is something. Those IEP meetings are so important. Change up the IEP. Try something different. Don’t focus on the same skill if he isn’t progressing. Teach the same concepts but you have to modify.

For younger children, Early Intervention is important. In EI, if they can, go to a typical class with an aide. Put them in different activities. Expose them to things not just those for autistic children. I love ABA but sometimes it can make them robotic. They don’t want to be in discrete trials all day. Even though they are five-years old with autism, they are still five. Kids love helping kids. Typical kids can learn a lot from autistic kids.

BMWK: What advice can you give to parents of children who are about to age out?

Janet Mino: Even after 21, still find ways to build them up. They need support. Plan early.

BMWK: What do you think is the most crucial issue that needs to be addressed when it comes to individuals with autism aging out?

Janet Mino: Once they’re adults, they should experience living without their parents if they are able to. They have to really work on assisted living programs for those who can.

BMWK: What is the advantage of an autistic person being in an assisted living facility?

Janet Mino: It makes them more independent. It gives them a choice. We don’t want to put limits on them. Just because they’re autistic, that doesn’t mean they want us in their face all the time. When our kids are growing up, we think of them leaving home. The same can be for autistic children. I know my kids, even though some may be nonverbal, they still show me when they don’t want me in their face.

BMWK: How are things coming along for the nonprofit you plan to open… the Valentine Center?

Janet Mino: I am excited about it. I am working on my 501 (c)(3). I am also working on funding. It will be designed for the whole spectrum.

BMWK: Can people find your center online to get more information?

Janet Mino: Yes we have a Web site:

BMWK:  Parents of children with autism were deeply touched by your dedication to your students. I do not think there was a dry eye in the room. Is there anything you would like to tell them?

Janet Mino: I know it’s hard for you parents but keep fighting. Once you all come together, you can move mountains. Call your congress man. The journey is worth it. Your child is worth it. God does not make junk.  It doesn’t matter where you are on the spectrum.

Mino’s sincerity and compassion for autism families was apparent as we spoke. She strongly believes that parents also need help and support.  Her dedication to her students and children with autism everywhere was obvious throughout our conversation. Interviewing her was indeed an honor.

Check Janet Mino out in the PBS documentary, Best Kept Secret and stay tuned for the opening of the Valentine Center in New Jersey.

How are you preparing your child with autism for life after school?

About the author

Kpana Kpoto wrote 38 articles on this blog.

Kpana Kpoto, also known as Miz Kp, is a special needs advocate and blogger. She provides resources and support for autism parents through her blog, Sailing Autistic Seas and her support group, Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle. Kpana lives in New York City with her husband and only child, six-year old "Angel" who is conquering autism one milestone at a time.


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4 WordPress comments on “Interview: How to Prepare Autistic Children for Adulthood

  1. Delores Knighting

    I enjoyed the document. Do you know of a support group or program for kids & grandparents in the Clarksville/Nashville TN area? My goddaughter past last yr & has a autism 12 yr son that my best friend is now raising. She’s seeking help, guidance & support for him & her on. Any leads will be appreciated.
    God bless & thank you. Djk

  2. Pingback: How I'm Raising the Bar for My Autistic Son |

  3. Pingback: Best Kept Secret: When Kids With Autism Grow Up And Age Out | To The Max

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5 Tips for Vacationing During the School Year

BY: - 23 Oct '13 | Parenting

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What’s not to love about travel accommodations at deeply discounted prices? What about quieter travel periods and less-crowded destinations? For families like mine, this is very attractive, but it most likely means traveling during off-peak times, i.e. during the school year. If you absolutely MUST travel during this time, here are a few tips for vacationing during the school year.

Age matters.

If you have an infant, toddler or preschooler, this is optimal. This is what I call JACKPOT stage because it also means you have two years before your bundle has to pay for an airline ticket. In some instances, even if you have a kindergartner, it’s still a great time to travel. At these young ages, there will be little to detriment when they miss the teacher’s lecture. So, when they are this age, this is the perfect time to take advantage of deals and discounts that don’t happen during a break.

Check with your child.

Sounds crazy, I know. Checking with your child does not mean that your child calls the shots. What kid wouldn’t want to take off a few days to enjoy an awesome vacation? Well, kids know their class schedules and if there is a special assignment due or a class project that just cannot be missed, then there’s a possibility that your child will not want to take off. Again, school year travel is age dependent. Just plan ahead and discuss the best time with your children, especially the older ones.

Know the rules.

Does your school have an excused/unexcused absence policy? Often schools make these decisions as they occur, on a case by case basis. Some schools have no nonsense attendance policy and basically, forbid it. I’ve had the pleasure, in the past, of my kids being allowed up to five days of missed school for travel purposes, but that’s not always the case. There are also excused absences for “education days”. As long as the child is doing something educational while they are away, they are excused. Familiarize yourself, so that there are no repercussions and a good time is had by all!

How’s school?

This is not just a random question you ask your children when they get home from school. This is a legitimate question that you need to ask yourself before you take them out of school for a few days. If your child is already struggling with certain classes and grades are low, taking them out can make matters worse. However, if your child is excelling in his or her classes and quick to catch up, then it may be okay to consider taking time off to travel. Even the smartest and brightest kids can fall a little behind, if they miss enough days.

Make it quick.

If you decide that taking a vacation during the school year is for you and your family, keep in mind the length of time you’ll be away and ideally make it a rather short stay for obvious reasons. Again, take all of the above into consideration and use your best judgement. Something to also consider is jet lag. As adults, we find it hard to assimilate after long flights. So, naturally, kids do too.

No matter the time of year, travel is always an opportunity for education and exploration. Whatever your plans, just have fun!

BMWK- do you ever take your kids out of school to take advantage of off season travel discounts and less crowds.

About the author

Sheree Adams wrote 117 articles on this blog.

Sheree is a wife and WAHM of three who passionately blogs about marriage, family, health tips and more as Smart & Sassy Mom. Sheree is committed to helping blended families and keeping marriages strong, healthy, fun and SPICY!


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