As parents of autistic children, we know that there are several truths in life when it concerns our children.
Autism is a part of life, not always a welcomed part some would say, but a very solid part.
We will do whatever is necessary to ensure the highest quality of life by advocating for our children daily. We also know that eventually our children will grow up and become autistic adults.
Some may go on to live independently and some may need continued support throughout the rest of their lives. Some may continue to live with us and some may live in a supported/group home. Just like our children are individuals, their needs are also different.
So how do we support autistic adults?
Autism in Adults
Autism in adults is not discussed quite as much as children’s autism, a disorder that is now thought to affect roughly one out of every 150 children born.
And although treatments are available, autism is not curable and it negatively affects social development and thought processes all throughout the life of someone who has the disorder.
Each person with autism is profoundly different and requires different levels of help.
Autism, at one point, was defined as ranging from mild to severe. That has since changed with the introduction of DSM-V in 2013. The new way is with Levels.
- Level 3: Requiring very substantial support (would have been severe autism)
- Level 2: Requiring substantial support (would have been moderate autism)
- Level 1: Requiring support (Would have been mild or high functioning autism)
But, because I’m still more familiar (and comfortable) with DSM-IV, I choose to use that in this post.
Classifying Autism in Adults (with DSM-IV)
Adults with mild autism are defined as high-functioning and those with severe autism are considered low-functioning. Low-functioning adults with severe autism need constant care from their families or within a facility that can address their needs around the clock (which is very expensive).
In contrast, adults with mild autism can lead relatively “normal” lives- with the right amount of support. That’s not to say that an individual with so-called severe autism cannot.
However, these terms and labels can also be incredibly misleading. But, let’s keep them in mind for purposes of this post.
They can live on their own and work, support and care for themselves. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have challenges. In fact, many high functioning autistic adults see their biggest problem as the way others perceive them and the reactions of other people to their “bizarre” behaviors is often troubling.
How well an autistic adult is able to take care of him/herself is often directly correlated with the quality of education they received as children and how early that education began. If they have been properly taught social responses and accepted behaviors, autistic adults can function as contributing members of society.
They can have families, careers, and social lives.
Even so, the majority of even high-functioning autistic adults live at home or in residential facilities.
There are autistic adults that have college degrees and are extremely innovative and there are others that require fairly simple jobs in order to succeed. Paying bills, cooking, and other independent behaviors can sometimes be taught.
Other times, special services may be required to help independent autistic adults stay independent.
Autism in adults does make things tougher when it comes to finding work. Most autistic adults have limited short-term memory, but superior long-term memory compared to the rest of us. So jobs that require lots of memorization are perfect fits.
Support Options Available for Autistic Adults
Organizations like the Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (CSAAC) provide employment opportunities for autistic adults. They also conduct various job training programs based on the areas of strengths for each particular candidate.
Most will say that autism is difficult to cope with.
Social difficulties occur on a daily basis and being unable to adequately mediate responses and situations is not a choice – it is part of who they are.
However, with the right amount of support and training, many autistic adults can function in society. They are incredibly successful.
Trying to socialize with others can be a real challenge for autistic adults.
That is why it is a good idea to get them involved in programs and activities that encourage human contact and teach them how to socialize with others. And just as important, we must educate those around us about this disorder, so that we can assist autistic adults in their struggle to fit in.
By teaching others about this disorder, we can hopefully develop into a more understanding and accepting society.
Fortunately, mainstream society is becoming more familiar with autism, especially since the number of autistic children being born is climbing at an alarming rate. Just like people with other disabilities, autism in adults requires special understanding.
Being different does not mean being worthless or that autistic adults shouldn’t be given a chance for success.
This disorder is not a curse.
There are many people who do not see adult autism as a curse.
And on the other hand, there are many people who actually enjoy being autistic.
They consider being autistic a part of who they are and wouldn’t have it any other way. They don’t want to be cured; they just want to be accepted by everyone. Yes, they too have strengths and weaknesses like everyone else, but most of all, they are people and have every right to enjoy life just like you and me.
One of the best ways that we can supports autistic adults, aside from supporting the individual and treating them as a human being; is to also support their families.
By providing support and needed services to families, especially when they are still autistic children can be one of the best things to do. It sets a standard and also gives a family some inkling of how to prepare for the future.