In case anyone is worried about the future for individuals with autism, don't be. Forbes isn't. Reporter Alice G. Walton just wrote a piece that pretends that autism has remained at a constant rate at the same time she talked about the "fast growing number of adults living with autism."
Walton isn’t alarmed about the 80-85% unemployment rate or “the estimated incremental cost per capita of autism is $3.2 million over a lifetime." Instead, the message seems to be that we just need to create the right kinds of jobs for people with autism. We don’t hear about the overwhelming needs of those with severe autism or any concerns that the numbers might get even worse.
Walton acknowledged that “there aren’t a lot of good statistics on how the work and living situations of [adults] on the autism spectrum have changed over the years.” Why is that? Why don’t we know what autistic adults are doing? Maybe she should do a little looking and try and find a few of the one to 1.5 million autistic adults she claims are out there somewhere.
There’s so much talk of the origins of autism these days, it’s hard not to think of it as a childhood disorder. But we tend to forget that there is a fast growing number of adults living with autism in the country today. According to Autism Speaks, in the next decade alone, 500,000 children with autism will come of age. So we have to wonder, what lies in store for the young adults who will soon age out of the special education system? What kind of lives will they lead? Has public awareness of the disorder led to any real change?
Rough estimates suggest that there are currently between one and 1.5 million autistic adults in the country today. But because tracking the disorder is relatively recent, there aren’t a lot of good statistics on how the work and living situations of people on the autism spectrum have changed over the years.
On the other hand, some autistic people are getting married and having kids, says Peter Bell of Autism Speaks. (And, he adds, in rare cases, some may not even be aware they have autism until they have a child diagnosed with the disorder, and their own status unfolds.)
The good news is that many of the participants in the study were born in the 1980s, and things have shifted since then. “There will be a change happening for kids born in the ‘90s and 2000s,” Bell adds. “You’ll have increasingly better outcomes because they are the ones experiencing the benefit of early diagnosis, early intervention, and newer kinds of treatments. And these are often covered by insurance, so more kids are getting them. This next generation will be able to lead better, more independent lives. A good percentage will be on to post-secondary education – years ago, they said this would never happen.”
. . . .If more effort were put towards integrating people with autism into education and employment, says Bell, society would clearly see the economic benefits. “These people have a lot to offer, and many have exceptional skills and talents. We have to get rid of the stigma. It may take some extra effort, but the payout will be great.”
Bell urges companies and families of autistic people to change their mindsets. “I’d encourage every company out there to think about what positions they have that would be suited for an individual with autism. They make some of the most driven, dedicated employees you’ll ever meet.” Of the families, he says, “the tendency is to feel pigeonholed, but aim high and help your kids aspire for better jobs that have meaning for a company.” There’s no need to relegate people with autism to the back office, as has been the trend, he adds. “On the contrary, autistic people can be some of the most delightful and friendliest, so being greeters in stores and other people-oriented positions can also be good matches.”
“I hate to use this expression because it’s so cliché,” Bell says, “but truly, the sky’s the limit. Always be open-minded. Things are changing.”
Read the full article and comment at Forbes HERE.