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Cleveland Plain Dealer: Dealing with Autistic Adults and not Asking Why

Why By Anne Dachel 

Recently there were stories from the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the problems caused by ONE AUTISTIC ADULT.  The first was the article on 8/14 , followed by an editorial on 8/19.  

These were sobering pieces about a young adult male named Simon Greenspan who has autism and who caused problems for the neighbors because of his emotional outbursts.  

Simon Greenspan would wake up his neighbors with screams and moans, often following a loss by the Cleveland Indians or another sports team.

“His outdoor rants, sometimes in the middle of the night, could last from 10 minutes to more than an hour.

“The sporadic outbursts, occasionally directed at his neighbors, went on for the better part of six years. During that time, Shaker Heights police responded between 50 and 100 times to the two-story house on Shelburne Road, usually after a neighbor had called to complain.”

Although it was about one individual, the implications are huge.  I’m sure tens of thousands of parents could read these stories with the nagging thought in the back of their minds, “Will this happen to my child?”  What’s so maddening to me is the fact that there’s this chronic acceptance of autism.   The Plain Dealer told us, “And this won’t be the last such case.

           “The population of people affected by autism is growing, and although the affliction manifests itself differently in different people, vocal or even violent outbursts are not uncommon.

           “The experience of the Simon family and their neighbors is a cautionary tale for every neighborhood and every community to ponder."

So there will be more adults like this coming along? Simon Greenspan’s behavior resulted in dozens of police visits, $6,500 in fines for the parents, and their son being shipped off to a group home Utah. So where will we put all the upcoming adults like Simon?

Today, Simon Greenspan lives in Ogden, Utah, in an apartment with 12 other adults with disabilities, and is being treated at a therapy center there. His parents' feelings are hurt, their family is divided and they question how their son's medical condition can fairly be classified as a criminal nuisance.”

Autism is the problem creeping up on everyone. We’ll have to live with it and pay for it. Maybe then we’ll start to ask why is happening.  I am very scared about a world where an epidemic gets a shrug of the shoulder and the victims become victims themselves.

I posted this comment:

Simon Greenspan is the future. Autism is now an epidemic affecting one percent of children, including almost two percent of boys. That rate comes from studies of eight year olds. No one has ever shown us a comparable rate among adults, especially adults with classic autism whose symptoms are undeniable. Dr. Thomas Insel, head of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) created by Congress to deal with autism, has said that 80 percent of Americans with autism are under the age of 18 and he warned that we need “to prepare for a million people who may be in need of significant services.” Nothing is being done to handle the approaching tsunami of dependent adults that will descend on social services in the coming years. The IACC now calls autism “a national health emergency.”

As a teacher, whenever I see an autistic child have a meltdown in school where it takes two or more adults to control the situation, I cringe at the thought of what will happen when he/she is 18 and 20 and doing the same thing.

When are we going to ask what’s happening to our children? How long will we accept that autism is a mysterious disorder with no known cause? We’re now on our second generation of the autism epidemic. The first wave is aging into adulthood. Estimates for lifetime care are at a minimum, $3.2 million per child. (Other estimates are $5 to $10 million/individual.)

When that happens disturbing the peace will be the least of our problems. How will we deal with this tsunami of autistic adults? How many people will  want a group home in their neighborhood? How willing will taxpayers be to support this disabled generation?

I really like what an autism dad I know wants to put on a bumper sticker….

“I pay a fortune for my child with autism. You will pay a fortune when he is an adult. Still think autism is someone else’s problem?”

Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism

Update: On Aug 21, 2011, this story, Not In My Back Yard -Group homes still facing opposition despite efforts, appeared in the Decatur AL Daily News,

“The state licenses group homes in three categories — intellectual disabilities, mental illness and substance abuse. The home in Hartselle would be for those with disabilities, not individuals with psychiatric- or substance abuse-related problems.

“In fact, Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan counties only have intellectual disabilities homes. Morgan leads the way with 50 homes, including 43 in Decatur. There are seven in Limestone and four in Lawrence County.

“Specific numbers were not available by county, but the waiting list statewide to get into a group home contains 2,700 families, Alabama Department of Mental Health spokesman John Ziegler said.

“‘There’s definitely a need for more group homes,’ he said.

“Municipal governments can’t ban the homes from single-family neighborhoods, but group homes almost always draw opposition from neighbors, who claim they lower surrounding property values and increase crime.”

Will the autism generation, ignored as children, be unwanted as adults?


Anne Dachel is Media Editor of Age of Autism. Subscribe to her newletter at



David fair

I have a 15 year old son named Logan-he is a non-verbal autistic boy - and a rather big for his age 6 ft 200 lbs- he has anger outbursts that are off the charts- he is very very very strong-he is self injuress -which typically consists of pounding his own head - his arms are bruised I can only imagine his head is as we'll - I do my best to stop this sometimes having a 30 minute wrestling match because I can't watch him pound himself-his mother who is my x is to small in stature to even try to stop him -he would hurt her ~ we have him on a special diet -should he be on a medication to calm him down-I'm afraid his damaging his brain with the hits to his head- you have no idea how hard he hits himself , help !, your thoughts. ?

Kathie Kerns

There are many professionals out there and unfortunately many opinions the Autism Spectrum disorder. It isn't just the "yelling" that they have, it's also what else comes with Autism -- ADHD, OCD, tics, etc. I pray everyday that there will be a cure. It is an insufferable way of living for those with it and those who care for them. There was just an article out March of 2013 in Chicago Magazine about autism and the "tsunami."
Well,the only problem is that there are already many young adults, and i also mean in their 20s that have fallen through the cracks. Federal government and local government does nothing. An aspie can't even find meaningful work or be trained. Government is GREAT at collecting all my tax dollars -- and yours -- doesn't care about these individuals at all. It's God awful and arrogant of them to make any of them criminals or to characterize their behavior as criminal. It's only when you start to peel all the layers away that you begin to have an understanding what it's like for the person with autism. And yes, it will be a problem because the government continues to ignore until, like anything else that happens in the U.S., it EXPLODES.

Cherry Sperlin Misra

To Aimee Doyle, I am convinced by my experiences and observations that your son can improve throughout his lifetime. Above all = get the mercury out of his body. Search your environment for all sources of mercury, and other metals and eliminate those. Remove toxins and allow the body a chance to heal. Good luck to you.

Mary E Tormey

It is unfair to say that most Autistic people have violent or loud outbursts. Most normal people react the same way when they are repeatedly subjected to huge amounts of pain. Feeling pain differently is a difficult idea for normal people to grasp. Autistic people only get diagnosed if their is a problem otherwise they usually end up working in jobs where OCD makes them very productive employs.

Aimee Doyle

I would also disagree with the previous commenter -- we don't know that adults with autism cannot be cured -- we haven't really tried. After all, for a long time everyone thought that autism in children was incurable. We know now that's not true. The research in children may be limited; in adults it's nonexistent.

I am inspired by the reading that I have done on neuroplasticity of the brain, and I've learned that the nervous system keeps growing and developing throughout life. People can and do learn new skills at 20, 30, 40 50, 60, etc. I don't think adults with disabilities are any different. What the medical community lacks is belief and the desire to figure out a solution. Parents don't need to be limited by what doctors say (but we knew that, didn't we?)

My son is 21, so we've been in the autism trenches a long time. And he's certainly not cured, recovered, whatever. But he continues to make progress. I also take a lot of heart from a simple analogy -- I think of rolling a snowball. The more snow you roll, the more you can roll. With my son, the more he learns, the more he can learn. I like to think we'll eventually get where we need to go.

May we all get there.


I would respectfully disagree with Vicki Hill about adults being cured though I do commend her on the work she is doing and feel that it is humane, compassionate and necessary. However, the neuropsychiatrist she spoke to is not God and there is really nobody who knows very much about what is going on in the brain in autism to create such disfunction. We don't know if it is a matter of connections not being made or something else. And before we know for sure we cannot give up on our children/adults. The fact is that there are very very few people looking in an honest (nonprofit) way for anything that might resemble a cure for our children. I feel like the world has given up on our children and adults. Only us parents know what great people they are and how much they're worth fighting for but we are too busy and tired to fight.


This is how the US of A is divided up at the moment... not much available for the bottom 40%.

Most Vaccine industry stockholders are located in the top 20%.

Vicki Hill

"Will the autism generation, ignored as children, be unwanted as adults?"

Some of us are already there, and some of us are actively trying to do something about it.

Most of the children with ASD will get better with maturity and the huge amounts of efforts we parents, teachers and other professionals due to help in the growing-up years. But virtually none of our kids will move OFF the autism spectrum. Higher-function than where they started out - yes. Neurotypical? No. And, as a neuropsychiatrist pointed out to me many years ago, there won't be a cure for the adults...for if the brain connections didn't get made correctly in childhood, there is no way in adulthood to go back and re-wire the brain. So while I would applaud a breakthrough cure sadly is unable to help those who are already adults with ASD. And that number is growing every year.

I volunteer for nonPareil Institute in Texas. ( We work with adults with ASD to teach them job skills. We also are working on options for living. Our motto: "Train.Work.Live" I know other parents around the country are also looking at options for adults. Government is unlikely to pay for all the services needed. Resistance to group homes is likely to continue. We have to create our own opportunities. For our kids. For your kids.


You are looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. In an ideal world there would be a huge increase in group homes and support services for adults on the spectrum and the bill would be footed by taxpayers. This will not happen. There will be a slight increase in services but not nearly enough. As the children get older there will be more and more drugs pushed on them. Often high amounts of powerful drugs will be prescribed and these will kill them and they will be forgotten. End of problem for the taxpayer and society. I am not too worried about the taxpayer.

Personally, I don't think that we should be pushing much for more services for adults. It is very hard to control an angry adult on the spectrum. That is reality. And these adults would rather have their pain go away so they can lead independent, happy lives than live with discomfort and behavioural controls. Most often these adults having outbursts are intelligent, good people on the inside. Let's not forget that. We should be pushing for cures! Even adults can be cured! Autism is a reversible condition. There are doctors like Wakefield and Krigsman who are looking at the children's gastrointestinal tracts. But what is their success rate? Not nearly high enough. Why is there not a whole team of emergency researchers looking at autism and the gastrointestinal tract, inflamation and the sensory system??? And finding real solutions? I agree that this is a national emergency. In my opinion, it would be best approached from the root by looking for a cure.

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