Can We Change the Future for Autistic Adults?
Most research on autism is performed on children. The key areas where intervention occurs with children are in behavioral and educational functioning. In these focused therapies, with children, there is undoubtedly marked improvement over time. During adolescence or adulthood, mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression can worsen, even while the other issues of autism can become much more improved. Their needs will continue even if their other needs lessen. In some cases, those needs from childhood continue, dependent on their level of functioning. Many autistic adults will need assistance regardless of the progress they make.
It is so apparent that there is not much focus on the aging population of autism in our communities, support legally and legislatively for autistic adults, as there is for children. Frequently, especially with those in the under-served low-income families, there is no support system in place. Even in the middle to upper class families, parents may die without having concrete plans in place because society doesn't have much to offer. The autistic adult can't function as well, if at all, in our world. They are now dependent on others for aid that will not care to the extent their parents did. Consequently, they are at the mercy of a society that seems to not care as there is no real system in place. In a country where everyone's rights are supposed to be protected, their needs will not be met. Don't we still have a moral obligation to see that this occurs?
Making services available is ethically our responsibility as a civilized society for individuals that can’t provide for themselves. Everyone in our country is entitled to quality of life and this class of people should not be excluded. If you talk to parents and families of children with autism, this is by far one of their greatest worries, what happens to my child when they grow up, when we are gone?
Some individuals with autism are unable to communicate well and many can’t communicate at all, especially when under stress and anxiety. Assessment of their needs be it health, mental, financial, living arrangements, basic care and feeding, should be assessed and addressed routinely. If employment can be provided for high functioning adults, this should be coordinated or assistance should be offered so they are contributing to their own well-being, as self-sufficient as possible.
One viable solution is to form Autism planning groups known as APG. Having read about this concept, it seems to be one of the best proactive ideas to date. These would be committees comprised of concerned individuals from all areas of the community, including healthcare providers, business representatives, religious leaders,general population people, educators, etc, to formulate solutions, concrete development schedules, sites and financial backing.
The purpose of the APGs again, would be to address the growing population of autistic adults’ future health and social needs. By starting the process of beginning training programs for care workers including volunteers for diagnosed, autistic adults of varying functioning levels to thrive at their level, the plan would be in place. Facilities could be built for living arrangements, job training programs could be established with connections to businesses willing to help, and all the various factors and variables addressed. The cost of a program in place would actually be far less than the current cost of having no system in place, especially when taken into account the huge growing number of autistic individuals in our country.
Programs in place to address our growing population of autistic adults within communities would mainstream their needs and make it more of a seamless transition. This will decrease stress to both the individuals, the families and the care providers. Furthermore, solutions will lessen the financial and emotional burden to communities. It may also provide jobs, not just for the high-functioning autistic adults but those working in these types of programs. Ultimately the end goal will be met, to provide and give this segment of the population the quality of life they deserve.
Consider that 3.5 Million Americans live with some degree of the autism spectrum currently according to the Autism Society Organization. According to Advancing Future of Adults with Autism, the anticipation of an incredibly large population of autistic adults is increasingly being called the "autism Tsunami" . The economic cost of not having a working system in place is staggering dollar figures. In 2002, it was estimated to be $126 Billion annually - it tripled by 2006. And we live in a nation with an increasing debt continually facing cutbacks. This issue has to be addressed and quickly.
If you are kidding yourself thinking you do not have a personal stake in this issue, caring for autistic adults in the future, because you do not have an autistic child, grandchild, niece, nephew, neighbor, you are wrong. We will all pay for these needs. And every challenge has a fix.
Delivery of training, assessment, specialists to provide services, housing, drop-in advice, job placement assistance, is possible. It needs focus groups devoted to creating solutions. Consider lending your hand and pushing for your leaders to put this topic on their agenda this year. Quit eluding the autism Tsunami.” Solutions are needed and we must be proactive and not retroactive. Funding and focus is needed. The time is now or your conscious may be at stake. Yes all lives do matter! Speak loudly, even louder, for those that cannot.