BERLIN, Md. –  Important. That was the word that Cody Drinkwater, an adult who was diagnosed with autism three years ago, used several times when describing the third annual Autism Awareness Conference put on by Atlantic General Hospital Tuesday night.

Drinkwater was one of roughly 50 in attendance at the conference where officials from AGH and the Kennedy Krieger Institute touched on topics such as bullying and the transition period for those with autism after high school.

For Drinkwater, he believes it’s important for people to know about the resources offered through the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration or DDA.

“It’s important that individuals get DDA services directly out of school and that they transition properly,” said Drinkwater.

Drinkwater himself uses things like the self-correction program where he has staff that he can call upon if he needs help with things like organization or budgeting.

“It can help their life, the services they get are basically like lifelong services,” Drinkwater said. “There were a lot of years of my life where I basically struggled because I didn’t have those services and now that I have them I’m in a much better place.”

According to Donna Nordstrom, director of community health at AGH, discussion on that transition period was something those in the community wanted to hear about.

“It’s so important for families to know the next steps, how can their child be the most successful and what tools do they need to be successful,” Nordstrom said.

Fortunately for those on the shore, AGH offers a program that helps with that, Project Search. An initiative that allows high schoolers with disabilities to get internships so they can gain work experience. After a successful first year, they’ve built on that with 5 interns starting this school year.

“It’s vitally important and although they started with a small number they are growing that number next year,” said Maureen van Stone, director of the Maryland center for developmental disabilities at Kennedy Krieger Institute. “Similarly Kennedy Krieger launched our first project search this past year and we are growing that number again next year.”

Speaking with 47 ABC, van Stone also shared that a good resource for those looking for more help can be found on their website and is aptly named “resource finder”.

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