tv Dateline MSNBC April 22, 2018 2:00am-3:00am PDT
a colorful way to do it. >> it's hard to pull off a fake kidnapping, it just is. that's all for now. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thanks for watching. . i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> they could be your neighbors. >> he is a beautiful toddler. running up and down the halls, chasing our labrador retriever. >> they live with some of the most vulnerable among us, and they've relied on the care and kindness of others to get by. until now. >> i really need these people,
and i can't have them anymore. >> what are you most afraid of? >> his world is going to collapse. >> in this hour an intimate journey where you'll meet eric and nick and their extraordinary mothers. >> moms do what they have to do. >> trials no family should have to face. >> i don't think i've ever been more terrified than i am right now. >> and triumphs too. >> is that milk or juice? >> fight for their kids that none of us can afford for them to lose. >> all the times that people told us he would never, well, he is. ♪ hello, and welcome to "dateline." all parents want a bright future for their children, but with kids with autism what if the one thing that will help them get there is taken away? several years ago from 2012 to
2015 we followed two families dealing with this issue. our cameras captured their successes and setbacks as they tried to navigate a very complex system for those with special needs. here with their story "on the brink" is kate snow. >> reporter: it's graduation day in a new york suburb. a rite of passage that normally brings excitement and endless possibilities for the future. this is nicolas kabisco, his journey to this date was long because nick has autism, a brain development disorder that can empair communication and social interaction. his mom lenor is unspeakably proud. [ applause ] >> reporter: at a private school 60 miles away from new york city eric sedowski, another young man with autism, is also graduating, sharing good-bye hugs and well wishes with friends and teach s teachers. his mother, mary clancy, is feeling emotional about her
son's last day. >> i was just hoping i would not start crying in the classroom. >> reporter: graduation is when parents launch their children into the world, eager to see what lies ahead, but for these families, the joy they feel in this moment masks the terror and dread lurking just below the surface. >> wake up every morning, drenched in sweat and worried about what am i going to do about eric? >> that's because when eric and nick leave school, they will lose the specialized help and structure thief had for most of their lives, and there's no equivalent state or federal support required to take over. parents of children with autism compare it to falling off a cliff. >> graduation, everything we've worked for, we are taking it away, and you will leap off a cliff into nothingness. right now the picture is nothingness. it's black. absolutely black. >> reporter: for three years dateline's cameras have chronicled the lives of these
two families as they made this leap. dploo i don't think i've had a moment of being terrified more than i am right now. >> reporter: we've watched them struggle to find resources. >> he is falling apart. he is a mess, and i need help, and i need help, like, two months ago. >> you don't feel like you can do it this morning? >> reporter: and battle to build a future for their sons. >> it feels so good. feel the air. isn't that wonderful? >> reporter: our story starts long before their worlds turned upside down on a warm summer evening in new york city where eric and mary are out on their weekly date. >> not afraid? >> not afraid. >> reporter: over dinner eric and his mother talk about his upcoming birthday. >> you are a big guy. >> reporter: in a few months eric will turn 21, the age when people with disabilities are no longer eligible for help through the education system. >> you are a big boy. >> and really becoming a young man. a young man.
>> yes. >> reporter: it wasn't so long ago that eric was a little boy running around the apartment where he lives with his mother, father, and sister. >> he is a beautiful toddler. running up and down the halls, chaesing our labrador retriever. he was such a loving child and so attached to me. >> reporter: but when he was about 18 months old mary noticed eric only had a few words and he had become repetitive, playing an old cassette tape again and again. >> that was the first hint the pediatrician then said it's time to get him looked at. i don't think he got a full diagnosis of autism until he was 3, but by 2 1/2 we were on it and had started therapies. >> you knew? >> we knew. we knew. >> reporter: eric started going to treatment centers to help him develop language skills. >> eric. you want some bagel? >> you want bagel? yes. >> reporter: mary was building a
career as a professional artist, but she put those ambitions on hold to care for her son full-time. >> did you miss it? >> i was heart sick. >> on the other hand, i'm sure you would do absolutely anything for your son? >> of course, that's what was happening. >> i couldn't say no to any possibility of help for him. you know, i just saw so much potential. i knew this kid had so much in him that any help that he needed, we gave to him. >> reporter: the symptoms of autism are viewed on a spectrum. eric is roughly in the middle rsh there are approximate many people who are far more challenged, like nick. his story starts at home on new york's long island where he lives with his parents and sister. >> nick doesn't speak and spends large parts of his days watching disney movies, something his mom lenor says he does repetitively. >> nick is watching his favorite scene in the whole world right now. the flavor of the month is "101
dalmatians." it's a few seconds long where he lets the scene play. he watches straight for four hours. >> reporter: nick has another common autistic trait. severe obsessive compulsive disorder. >> i saw him walking through a room, and he walked only on the edge of the room. >> he has developed a very -- we call it choreography. it could take him two hours sometimes to cross a room. it's painful to watch. >> reporter: nick needs individual attention that's hard to provide in a classroom, so his local school district sends aides to work with him one-on-one at home, but like eric, nick's 21st birthday is around the corner. they'll both abruptly lose the services that have helped them come so far. >> is it cruel to offer something and then have it taken away? but it's even crueller not to offer it in the first place? i don't know what the answer is. >> the burden of caring for eric
and nick will fall almost entirely on their families. especially on their mothers. you're about to see what happens as they prepare for that life-changing moment. >> in a sign of just how much progress nick has made, his family is able to take him to his favorite place on earth. disneyworld. >> coming up -- >> it's a cause for celebration because he has come such a long way. >> reporter: but will nick and eric's progress continue without help? >> he will fall back into the autism world. >> when "dateline" continues. [ dramatic music bed ]
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where agents help keep you protected from mayhem... ...like me. mayhem is everywhere. are you in good hands? welcome back to this edition of "dateline." examining the struggle two families face when their special needs sons were about to reach their 21st birthdays. it was the able when their schooling had to come to an end, worrying their parents about the next stage in their son's lives. continuing our report, here is kate snow. >> reporter: eric's parents are sitting in an emergency meeting with the principal at his school. >> what are the options for him for next year. >> eric is not in trouble. he has autism, and by law he must leave school when he turns 21 in a few months, but his dad, richard sedowski, says eric is not done learning, and he and
mary are in a panic about what eric will do next. >> to abruptly end his schooling is not a good thing for him. >> he has been a student at the rebecca school. it's a private school dedicated to providing specialized support like speech and occupational therapy to children with developmental disabilities. >> it's a place where he is understood and is cared about. he loves the teachers. he have very, very attached to them. the rebecca school is like a family to him. >> reporter: it's expensive, too. $100,000 a year. after the costly legal wrangling eric's parents got the public school district to pick up the tab. that's because federal law says states are obligated to educate children through high school for those with special needs that usually means up to age 21. >> he will fall back into the
autism world. that's where his brain takes him. it's hard. i really need these people, and i can't have them anymore. >> reporter: as an adult eric will be eligible for social security, and he will be able to apply for services funded by medicaid, but his parents have been warned that those programs will not be tailored to autism or build on the skills eric has mastered at the rebecca school. >> we just can't cut off educating and teaching and supporting people when they age out of their school program. >> reporter: linda walder is the executive director of the daniel jordan fiddle foundation, a nonprofit think tank devoted to studying the issues around adults with autism. because autism prevalence rates have more than doubled over the past decade, she says an estimated half a million young people with autism will age out in the next ten years. >> and it's a tsunami of children who are aging to adult
life. >> do you stop having autism when you turn 21. >> that is one of the general misconceptions about autism is that it only affects children. >> he has just months before he loses access to resources his mother says have changed his life and hers. >> i would never give up on nick. i always knew there was more to him. i knew he was in there. i knew he was trying. when we supported him at home, i kept getting glimpses. i knew where that young man was. >> reporter: finding a way to reach nick has been a challenge. he used to live in a 24-hour residential treatment center, but lenor says the staff had trouble with nick's obsessive behavior. >> it was torture for him to have someone try to intervene and rush him, prevent him from doing something. >> what did that lead to? >> initially protesting.
it eveolved into hem becoming very, very self-destructive. property destruction. he would -- he began to attack people. he began to lash out. >> reporter: lenor says they had no choice but to bring him home. >> it's a lot for the family, but i know a lot of it fell on you. >> moms do what moms got to do. we do what we have to do. >> reporter: now their public school district provides aids aides to help lenor in the home and sends a teacher to work with nick for two hours every day. >> you really need more than one person to teach nick. >> i need a break. >> yeah. >> you can take a break. >> when you have someone at his elbow to keep him calm, keep him focused, it does work. >> reporter: with this individualized approach, nick's aggression has nearly disappeared. he started venturing out of the
house, taking trips to a local bagel shop, even the grocery store. he has made so much progress that his family decides to take their first vacation in seven years. the destination? nick's favorite place on earth. >> nick, you're at disney! >> reporter: this is a big deal. it's a big deal for our whole family. we all want to go home and talk about it. >> reporter: nick's older sister, tasha, says she's proud of her brother. >> it's a cause for celebration because he has come such a long way. he is as typical as i would love for him to be. >> reporter: even as nick's confidence is growing, he may not know what's about to happen when he turns 21. his family knows and can't help but worry. >> what are you most afraid of? >> pulling that plug. his world is going to collapse.
everything that we spent -- the hours, the dollars -- is about to go down the drain. >> wait until you're 25. >> okay. >> he is really under stress. he has a fantasy about taking all of the girls that he has loved, all on a trip where they go away together, and he was going to have this when he was 21, but he got so frightened at 21 that he moved it to 25. >> you don't have graduation for five more years? >> no. not yet. you have five more years of school. >> from what you can tell, what does he know? >> he is pretty upset about leaving rebecca school and leaving his friends, and i don't have anything positive to tell him about what's coming up.
coming up, graduate iing to uncertain future. >> he has come so far, and th then -- that's crazy. >> when "dateline" continues. ♪ hey, sir lose-a-lot! thou hast the patchy beard of a pre-pubescent squire! thy armor was forged by a feeble-fingered peasant woman... your mom! as long as hecklers love to heckle, you can count on geico saving folks money. boring! fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.
before special education students like nick graduate, federal law says they must have something called a transition plan created by their school districts. it's supposed to be a set of measurable goals designed to prepare young people for adult life. nick's mom, lenor, hasn't received anything, so she and her husband, mike, call the school superintendent to complain. >> i have no transition plan, and the clock is ticking, which is why i said to you i'm fearful that we're just delayingnd delaying here, and nicolas's needs are not being met. good job, nick. excellent doing it together, bud. >> reporter: lenor begins making frantic calls herself trying to get nick hooked up with an agency that could provide him with adult services. >> put that on the list of things to do. >> here we are right on the brink, and i didn't know how to make it gel. the whole system just didn't make any sense at all. >> and there's no instruction
manual, right? >> depended who you got on the other end of the phone. i have been calling 30 agencies and just taking notes like crazy, and i look back at the notes and, god, it was chaos. >> there is one particular program lenor has been desperate to get nick enrolled in before he ages out. the government will allocate a certain amount of money for nick and let his family pick and choose how to spend it on services for him at home. with graduation a few weeks ago lenor finds out he has been wait listed. >> he has no program to transition to because the funding is not there, and he is stuck on a waiting list. >> reporter: eric's mother, mary, is deeply concerned about her son's transition too. she's been looking for adult programs for him for years. >> my short list of things i thought probably would come through. i'm working my way through them, and i'm getting a lot of shut doors. >> reporter: mary is finding
there are few options for adults. even fewer options for adults with autism. >> i had wanted to put him in one of the local y's that had a special needs program. turns out -- this is a phrase i hear from agency, program, center all the time. >> on the day after his 21st birthday, eric walks into school for the last time. >> sabrina, not done yet. >> it's so far away. >> right now we're in 2012. >> it's really tough. i wish we had more of a plan for eric. >> joshua rich, eric's head teacher, says the day is even more difficult because eric is the first student to age out of the rebecca school. >> we brought him so far. we're leaving him in an uncertain position, which is really upsetting. >> here's your artwork.
>> reporter: eric wants a quiet ending. no graduation ceremony, no party, no celebrations. eric's principal tina mcchord says his departure is tough on everyone. >> i think the students were definitely feeling it, and i know the staff is. -- i feel very much like a mother hen of all the students here. eric, i'm so proud of him. he has come so far. it's concerning that he is not going to someplace that's going to be supportive and meet his needs and allow him to move ahead. i feel worried about him. that makes it harder to see him go. >> time to go home. >> everybody should give these kids and these adults a chance because what they bring to the table is really amazing. they have so much to add.
>> good-bye. >> we'll wait outside. >> eric gets on the school bus for the very last time headed toward an uncertain future. while eric's transition was deliberately unceremonious, nick's is much more of a celebration. >> going to graduation. although nick hasn't been in a regular classroom for most of his life, he is participating in the school district's graduation ceremony at his parents' request. his teacher, holly, and his sister, tasha, support him as he receives his diploma. just a few years ago a crowd like this would have been overwhelming and stressful for nick.
[ applause ] >> class of 2013! [ cheering ] ♪ zblooj when >> when he had that gown on, he was proud of himself. he had a smirk. he held himself a little high. sitting at graduation, he showed everybody you all thought i couldn't. i sat here and look, i walked the stage myself, and i did it. he did. >> reporter: the celebration would be short-lived. nick and eric are about to find out that their immediate futures are chaotic, threatened to undo a lifetime of learning. >> he has come so far these couple of months, and then that's mind-boggling to me. that's crazy. >> reporter: coming up -- >> to raise an autistic child,
you can't do it without help. >> reporter: we take our hidden cameras inside a day-hab for adults like eric. >> they're sitting in storage. >> dateline continues. non-drowy claritin and relief from symptoms caused by over 200 allergens. like those from buddy. because stuffed animals are clearly no substitute for real ones. feel the clarity and live claritin clear. happiness is powerful flea and tick protection from nexgard. nexgard kills fleas and ticks all month long. and it comes in an easy-to-give tasty chew. and that makes dogs and owners happy. no wonder vets love it too. reported side effects include vomiting, itching, diarrhea, lethargy and lack of appetite. see your vet for more information on flea and tick protection you and your dog will love. nexgard. the vet's #1 choice.
>> huge crowds turned out to celebrate the life of former first lady barbara bush who was laid to rest saturday at her husband's presidential library in texas. president trump was not in attendance, but first lady melania trump was there to pay her respects. bush passed away early tuesday at the age of 92. rudy giuliani announced he will join president trump's legal team. he says he is joining to help negotiate an end to the russia investigation. now back to "dateline." welcome back to "dateline." i'm natalie morales. our cameras follow two families over a three-year period
documenting the upheaval in their lives as their special needs sons reach 21 and their school programs abruptly ended. what would the future hold for these young men? here's kate snow. >> reporter: a month after nick's graduation his mom lenor is flipping through his appointment calendar. it's where she keeps track of his meetings with teachers and other care givers, and it's empty. >> there's nothing left. >> reporter: lenor is on her own. >> what are those first weeks like? >> i remember pulling the shades, turning on the air conditioner, and saying, okay, buddy, it's just me and you. >> reporter: as the weeks going on, lenor is watching her son regress before her eyes. >> his personality did. his willingness to interact dimmed because there's less practice. there's less to do. there's less opportunity. it's like it's literally dimming the lights. >> reporter: nick has been on a waiting list for government money to pay for the at home services his mom really wants, but there's a catch. even if the funding comes
through, the state requires anyone receiving services to have a social worker, and lenor can't find one. >> when you are ready. >> reporter: lenor has taken nick for interviews at a number of agencies that provide social workers, but none of them have agreed to take his case. >> to raise an autistic child, you can't -- you can't do it without the help, and right now i don't know how we're going to do it. i don't know what kind of life he is going to have because we're looking at a really barron landscape for him. i don't think i've ever been more terrified than i am right now. >> reporter: autism advocate linda walter says government programs aren't designed for adults with autism. >> the system is really broken. it's dated. it's not addressing the needs of adults in the growing population
of adults living with autism. >> reporter: without appropriate jobs or housing, adults with autism have higher rates of unemployment than individuals with other disabilities. and 80% under age 30 live at home, which is what eric is doing now that he has turned 21 and aged out of the rebecca school where he had constant support. >> does 21 seem arbitrary to you. >> for these kids it's terribly arbitrary. i understand that the state has to have some limits. they can't support people forever, but this is no solution. >> reporter: mary wonder if all the money spent educating eric will have been a waste if she can't find something productive for him to do now. this is what eric's day is like since aging out. little structure, hanging around the apartment with nothing to do, and nowhere to go. >> it's something that hit us. we're into the rest of our
lives, and that's been a big change. a frightening one. >> reporter: with no more teachers and friends to stimulate his language skills, eric is already losing some of the speech he gained in school. >> so she can't sit in a sofa. >> she can't sit in a -- >> he is sleeping 12 to 13 hours. kind of drifting in and out of his world. singing to himself a lot. talking to himself a lot. really regressing into his own world. a lot of withdrawal. >> reporter: eric's mother has explored free day programs offered by the state known as day-habs. she doesn't like what she's seen. >> what did you see? >> i saw rooms full of people with their heads on the tables, wandering around. just being in storage. they're just sitting in a room. >> dateline took hidden cameras
into some of the day programs to see for ourselves. we said we were looking for a program for someone with autism who was aging out. this is what we saw. at one a group of adults gathered in a room doing very little. at another people with special needs are working gluing strips of rubber to metal. a staff member tells us they spend most of their day in this room. >> and outside the facility there's barbed wire. the staff says it's there for safety reasons. the thing is there are often huge wait lists to get into day-habs like these. >> somebody who works for the state told me not to look at the state programs because they're terrible. >> that speaks volumes. >> yeah. >> that someone in the state system would say don't doom here.
>> yeah. >> she said honestly, they're all horrible. >> reporter: new york state says it's helping more and more people with developmental disabilities lead increasingly independent lives. it says it's in the process of shutting down sheltered workshops and trying to help people find jobs. >> a peanut butter sandwich made with jam. >> i always thought when he got older, i had this big idea that he would have some kind of a job, and it would be over, and i'm only adjusting now over the last two years in this transition period to understand that it's never going to be over as long as i'm alive i will be caring for eric. >> reporter: being a champion for someone who has a developmental disability can be draining. studies show a higher incidence of depression among parents and care gives. six months after eric's graduation, mary is struggling. >> it must be so hard. >> it is exhausting. the biggest thing that hurts is for me is loneliness and
isolation. it's very, very hard, but i absolutely love this boy. >> reporter: mary is feeling desperate and starts to think that one of those day-habs might be better than nothing, so she sends in an application. >> i still wake up every single morning in a panic and worried about what am i going to do about eric? >> eric needs to get outside. >> i look at the future, and that feels so hopeless. >> i mean, mommy. >> reporter: both families are watching their sons slip away, discovering they have to make compromises, but as difficult as things seem, one family is about to discover things could be even worse. >> reporter: coming up -- >> we have nice weather. that is about the level of service that we have here. we always tell people don't move here. >> the team that comes to help him, helps me do better for him. >> reporter: and heart break. >> what does it mean to the
family? >> it will be long distance. >> reporter: when "dateline" continues. hill is irresistible. children's claritin. feel the clarity and live claritin clear. ♪ protect your pets from fleas and ticks with frontline plus for dogs and frontline plus for cats. its two killer ingredients work fast and keep working all month long preventing new flea infestations on your pet. frontline plus. the number 1 name in flea and tick protection.
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>> so i built a binder for him. i built lessons. put together a daily plan for him. this is how it is set up for adults. you graduate and all education stops, and eric is nowhere near finished with his education. >> reporter: eric's parents are also paying out of pocket for activities to get him out of the house. he has a gym membership, a music therapy class, and a companion to take him places. it all comes at a staggering cost. >> do you have any idea how much money you have spent on care for eric? >> probably our least expensive year har about $40,000, and the higher ones have been around $90,000. >> $90,000? for a year? >> yeah. we haven't been able to save any money. we don't have any retirement, but it's kind of like when people ask me how much does it cost to raise a kid with autism? everything you've got. >> reporter: for nick there's some good news. his mom finds a social worker to
take his case, and after three months on the wait list, he is approved for that self-determination program. lenor now has state medicaid money to hire a support team for nick, including some familiar faces, like his former teacher holly. >> the team that comes to help him helps me do better for him because when they are here, they meet his needs. >> you can breathe. >> they carry him. i get to sit back as mom and go you go, guy. like, look. you can do it. >> i don't know what's bothering you today. >> reporter: here's something that may seem odd that makes nick's mom proud. he is crying. expressing emotion like this has always been a challenge for him. >> when he cries, there's a little happy dance going on from my side because he didn't do it before. he does it now, which means i bet there's a lot more that he didn't do before that's going to happen. and we're ready. >> reporter: but lenor can't sit
back for long. there's another unexpected change. >> your husband's job is shifting to florida. >> yeah. yeah. >> why the deep intake of breath? >> because that's a big scary thing. that's a big scary thing. >> with lenor working only part-time, the family relies on her husband mike's income, so they decide to take a scouting trip to florida to find out if nick can get the same kind of support there. >> we went to medicaid. we went to the providers down there and asked the questions. >> dateline is with lenor on her visit to florida agencies where employees are incredibly candid about how little they have to offer. they allow their conversations with lenor to be recorded. >> how immediately do you need toes services? we have quite a long waiting list. >> give me a hint. >> like 22,000 people on the waiting list. >> okay. that's a big reality check.
>> are you going to have those guaranteed services from new york? >> no. >> then i would be lying to you if i told you were. >> we always say if there's a way that he can remain there, then you are, you know -- you're really trading in a lot for nothing. we have nice weather. that is about the level of service that we have here. we always tell people don't move here. >> we later asked florida state officials for comment. they say over the past two years the state has approved more funding to help get people off the wait list. >> how is it possible that things are so different from one state to another. >> the funding source is medicaid, and medicaid is a state federal partnership. >> sharon lewis is a senior advisor on disability policy for the u.s. government. she explains that states decide how to spend federal money for adults with autism. >> there's no minimum requirement in terms of how many people you're going to serve, how much money you're going to spend on this. it's a state decision.
>> so the federal government can't say to florida you've got to do the same thing. >> at this point under the law no. >> what's more, lewis says states split their medicaid dollars between the poor and people with disabilities. it all adds up to a system that can't take that much weight. back in new york nick's family decides he is better off staying put so they make a difficult decision. they're breaking up the family. mike will move to florida for his job alone. >> what does it mean to the family? >> it will be long distance, and it leaves nick and my daughter and i here to try to figure out how we're going to be three-quarters of a family. and keep dad connected. >> and eric's family is also settling for a situation that's not perfect, but better than him sitting at home. six months after he graduated from the rebecca school, eric
starts attending a day-hab in manhattan where he does volunteer work. >> it's simple things like setting tables, delivering mail. they even have dog walking, delivering meals to the elderly. >> while they don't do that much, it's better than most, and he has a mix of young people to be with. he has friends. >> but what eric and his mom don't know is that there's something even better right around the corner. >> coming up, a little light at the end of a long tunnel. >> he is really a gifted artist. i see really good things come out of this. >> it's not over. it's not a done deal. see the individual. >> when dateline continues. happiness is powerful flea and tick protection from nexgard. nexgard kills fleas and ticks all month long.
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welcome back. for three years, our cameras captured the trials and tribulations of two families fighting to get their autistic young adult sons into any programs they could find. these mothers knew the battle for their kids' future was far from over. here with the conclusion of on the brink is kate snow.
mary and lenore have carried their sons through an unstable, scary transition. they've fought for every bit of help they could find. and they have tried their best to give their sons the support they lost when they turned 21. nick has had an especially bumpy road. after depending solely on his mom for months, he finally got help in the form of a state funded program that sends aides to his home. then, his family had to break up in order to keep his services. not long after, another change. he abruptly loses some of his services again. >> our experience when he graduated was falling off a cliff. i said to my husband this was the equivalent of getting pushed off a cliff. >> reporter: here's why, new york state agencies put new conditions on how government funding can be used to pay for programs like nick's. he loses valuable members of his team overnight and quickly spins out of control. >> he's falling apart. he's a mess. and i need help and i need help like two months ago.
>> reporter: after an episode of extreme anxiety leaves nick hospitalized, lenore calls an agency that provides services for nick, begging for help. lenore feels like once again, she's on her own. >> that's all i can do is hope and keep my fingers crossed. and work with him minute by minute. minute by minute. some days are truly minute by minute. >> you're thinking about the shawnee hotel, yes? >> yeah. >> reporter: after months of lobbying state administrators and looking for loopholes, she manages to piece back together some of nick's support team. over muffins and coffee one recent weekend, lenore brings them back up to speed on nick. >> we know now he's not wrong, he's just him. but he needs supports from us to be ok with being him. >> reporter: lenore knows nick will always need a lot of help. but she also knows he can still participate in his community. we join nick and his team members as they recycle bottles and cans that nick collects. wow.
$1.25, $1.45, 25, 35, i'm not great with math. that's about three dollars? >> right. >> reporter: nick donates the money he makes to the charity "make a wish" >> he had make-a-wish a number of years ago. and that was life-changing for him. >> oh thank you so much! >> not everybody works a paying job, but that doesn't mean they don't contribute to their community. >> for all your hard work. >> and right now we're teaching him how to do that with something a simple as collecting bottles and passing the money on to charity. >> reporter: for eric, the period of isolation and stagnation he went through after leaving the rebecca school is coming to an end. >> mommy, and i'll be right back. >> reporter: he's recently learned a new skill, he's taking the subway by himself a big step on the path to becoming more independent. >> what are you going to do this
weekend? >> reporter: and instead of weekly dinner dates with his mom, eric meets with a language coach his own age paid for by his parents. and their conversation sounds like any other dinner date. >> thank you for asking! >> good morning, pam! >> good morning! how are you today? >> reporter: but the best news is eric's mom has traded the dayhab for something even better. he's been selected for a selective art program for adults with developmental disabilities. it's called pure vision arts and is a program of the shield institute, a non-profit organization. eric shows us some of his artwork. and is that milk or juice? >> milk! >> reporter: breakfast! eric has also displayed his work in several art exhibits around new york city. at his first show, old friends come to celebrate with him. his mother, who's finally finding time to get back to her own artwork, is thrilled.
and one snowy morning this february, mary and eric go to one of the biggest public art fairs in new york city. >> i'm really really proud of you. this is a big show. it's really special. >> reporter: his art is on the walls and it's for sale. >> i'm very proud of you. he is really a gifted artist. and i see really good things coming out of this. i'm so pleased. i just think, you know, he does have a chance at a life away from me. this is a new beginning for him. >> reporter: for lenore, she says it's hard to imagine a day when she won't be managing her son's life. and she knows when that day comes the responsibility will fall to nick's sister. what happens when you're not there for him anymore? >> i am terrified for him and my daughter. i pray that they find people in their lives to help them through
that and find a way to make that as easy as we can for both of them. >> reporter: since this report first aired, both new york and florida have added millions of dollars in additional state aid to serve people with developmental disabilities and provide more services. the families of eric and nick gave us an update. they are still facing challenges and financial struggles in caring for their sons, but they also told us one more thing remains a constant in their lives. they're determined to keep spreading awareness of what parents of young adults with autism deal with in the hope that it will help others. >> it's not going to get any better until parents get together and force change. it's the most important thing you can do for your kid. >> all the times that people told us he would never, well, he is. all the things that they said,
"well, he can't and he won't." well, he can. and he will. and he does. and he is. it's not over. it's not a done deal, see the individual. that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm natalie morales. thanks for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." we, the jury, find the defendant guilty. >> you actually think they read the wrong verdict. >> you feel so alone and hopeless. >> it's like a shot in the chest. >> despair to hope. darkness to light. a fight for freedom. >> what happened to this teenager could happen to any one ourhildre >> at 18, he was arresd for murder. adamant he was innocent.