Everyone wants to be self-supporting and contribute to the community, but some need more support than others. That’s where Pacific Autism Center for Education's (PACE) transitional program steps in, helping its students reach their full potential for living independently. One of those young adults is 19-year-old Joseph Jacobson, a personable young man with a huge smile.
He's getting hands-on work experience every Tuesday at Pizza Party in Santa Clara, as one of several PACE students who work at the restaurant, with support from Pizza Party owner Lidia Blair.
Although he enjoys the experience and has learned a lot, Jacobson doesn't plan on a career in the restaurant business. Instead, he hopes to find an opportunity to teach martial arts, one of his interests.
Even 50 years ago, that would be an impossible dream for people with disabilities. But today, with the type of support that PACE provides, adults with disabilities have real opportunities to have full lives with meaningful work.
PACE Education Specialist Jillian Mehta tells a story illustrating just how much things have changed. “My grandmother taught Special Ed. She had a principal who came into the classroom and would close the blinds and turn off the lights because he didn't want the people driving by to see the school spending money on disabled students. It's hard for me to fathom that today,” she says. “We've come so far.”
For more than 25 years, PACE has provided services for Bay Area children and adults with autism, including a children’s program, PACE School and young adult transition programs, and residential homes. PACE recently received a $50,000 grant for playground and occupational therapy equipment for the school from Santa Clara-based chip-maker eASIC Corporation (www.easic.com). For more information visit pacificautism.org.