Apr 02, 2013 0 Share

Wanted: Skilled Case Manager


Man climbing over-sized stack of file folders.
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First published on September 16, 2011.

As we’ve mentioned in several articles, existing adult services are generated by a variety of state and federal agencies. Creating a system of support for an adult on the spectrum is like piecing together a quilt. You take a bit from here, some from there, and stitch it together. And while many hands can work on sewing a quilt, one person must stand back, look at the unified whole, and determine how to fit pieces together successfully. 

In the medical and social services universe, that point person is often referred to as a case manager. The duties of a case manager are many, and can include locating, coordinating, overseeing, and evaluating services. A case manager must understand the variety and complexity of a client’s needs, and match services accordingly. A case manager must track progress over time, and make changes to service provision as needed. And a case manager must be able to keep fiscal imperatives in mind at all times.

Most adults on the autism spectrum would likely benefit greatly from good case management services. And while many people receive truncated versions of this through one agency or another, these efforts may not be holistic enough. Job performance may be examined, but without understanding medication management, success may be elusive. Training opportunities may exist, but without access to adequate transportation. Postsecondary education may be in the works, but sleep issues may interfere with class attendance.

So who do you get to be your adult child’s case manager? Depending on your location, you may be able to find a professional in your area who understands developmental disabilities, maybe even autism. If you are very, very lucky, you may even be able to access these services through public funding streams. But in all likelihood, your adult child’s case manager will end up being you, your spouse, or another family member. 

Wait a second, you exclaim. I’m just now wrapping up overseeing my kid’s IEP process.  And keeping track of his medical and therapeutic needs. You mean I can’t stop??

That’s right. You can’t stop now. Depending on your child’s level of independent functioning, you may be able to teach him how to take over some of these responsibilities. But for most parents of adults with autism, you or someone in your family will need to take on the role of case manager. It will undoubtedly seem like an enormous task. But it is a crucial one.  Effective case management should not be overlooked. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day needs. But big picture requirements and coordination of services can’t get put on the back burner.

The good news is that you don’t have to have a degree in nursing or social work to be an effective case manager for your adult child. After all, you are the expert here. You have the benefit of knowing all the gory details of your kid’s strengths and weaknesses. You also can reflect on trajectory of lifespan services up to now. And, you’ve got a vested interest in the future. So your version of case management will focus not only on what’s happening today, but what tomorrow will bring.

A big piece of our mission at Autism After 16 is to help provide you with information to make you a more effective case manager. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. Like it or not, the somebody is probably you.