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Oldsmar, FL: Life after high school: "more than one million kids with autism" aging out

April 30, 2023, Bay News9, Tampa Bay, FL: Parents of autistic children often worry about life after high school

OLDSMAR, Fla. — These days, it's easy to get lost in the music in the Gasior household. In fact, for Bozena Gasior, it is hard to think back to a time without music. ________________________________________ What You Need To Know Milosz Gasior, 19, has a severe form of autism He is graduating from Gibbs High School this year His mother hopes he will be able to get a job playing piano at local restaurants or events

He is 19 and a senior at Gibbs High School in Pinellas County. He has thrived in high school. But college? Joining the workforce? Just coming into adulthood - these are all things Bozena worries about.

“I am worried about the future. I am positive, and I am doing anything I can do find options for him, but I am worried,” she said. "So the graduation, I know that many people consider that as an accomplishment. For me, it is really just fear. What is going to happen next?”

Over the next decade, the organization Autism Speaks estimates more than one million kids with autism will enter adulthood and age out of school-based autism services. It also estimates nearly half of the 25-year-olds with autism in the country have never held a paying job.

Milosz even knows he is nearing this point.

“Since the beginning of the school year, he kept repeating, 13th grade, 13th grade," said Bozena. "Because for him it was natural that, that from there 11th he goes to 12th, from 12th he would go to the next grade. So we explained to him that there is no 13th grade.”

So what comes next? Who will help support him?

Bozena knows what most parents know, he will most likely outlive her.

“At some point, I am not going to be here when Milosz is going to be here. And I want to do everything that I can, to prepare for that time," said Bozena.

At this point, she feels that means getting Milosz ready for the workforce using his best skill - piano.

“In a perfect world, I would imagine him playing somewhere, in a nice restaurant, with beautiful candles and his music," said Bozena.

He does currently play at different places around town from time to time. This past Christmas holiday he got to play at Tampa International Airport.

“Playing doesn’t require talking to people. And, his personality he wants to please people," said Bozena.

It takes no time for people to react to the music on a busy travel day. In a place where it is easy to be in a hurry, people are constantly slowing their pace to hear Milosz play.

“Just listen, that is all you have to do, and feel. That is what music is all about," said Bob Selby, traveler.

“So this is very nice, and soothing," said Ada Torres, traveler.

“He is really good, really good. I would never guess he was autistic," said Tonisha White, a traveler.

This reaction from total strangers is exactly what his mother hopes for. She wants people to know about Milosz and accept him the way he is.

“That is my son’s name. Milosz Gasior Defying Autism,” said Bozena, as she handed out Milosz's business card. “If you ever would like to support him on his YouTube channel, and listen to the same music on his YouTube channel.”

Bozena hopes someone listening could be a potential employer.

“I hope someone out there is going to hear him play, hear his story, and give him a chance," said Bozena.

His journey into adulthood is certainly just beginning. But with his mother's help, they hope he can one day support himself in some way.

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