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Adults and autism

An unprecedented number of families will soon watch their children with autism leave school and flood the adult disability system. These children, the first wave of the so-called "autism epidemic," will enter a disability support system already under strain, according to a journal paper co-authored by Peter F. Gerhardt, Ed.D. The influx represents a "looming crisis of unprecedented magnitude for adults with autism, their families, and the ill-prepared and underfunded adult service system charged with meeting their needs," the paper said. Many adults with disabilities are already on long waiting lists for residential services.

Despite the challenges of finding and sustaining employment, transition services and better workplace supports are opening up more job opportunities for those on the spectrum. Advocates also urge individuals to prepare for careers right from high school, and train for the job interview process. Once on the job, some organizations are being more considerate to needs of individuals with ASD by offering visual instructions and the option of working in an environment that is suitable to their sensory preferences, among other measures.

Some of a child’s early symptoms of autism may be among the most puzzling to parents: hand-flapping, rocking, lining up toys, or finding the whirling blades of a fan more interesting than the world around him. Doctors call these repetitive and restricted behaviors. Guidelines for diagnosing autism now place a greater emphasis on these behaviors.

Getting behind the wheel of a car is a rite of passage for many teenagers, but for high-functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) this task may prove particularly difficult. Along with the impulsivity, inexperience, and other traits of adolescence and young adulthood that can make driving a challenge, an individual with ASD may find him- or herself struggling with potential obstacles posed by autism itself.

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