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Forbes Presents the Tip of the Autism Iceberg not the Titanic

FluffBy Anne Dachel

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.

Living Life With Autism: Has Anything Really Changed? By Alice G. Walton

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.



Jill Fenech

This reminds me of the parade scene in Animal House where Kevin Bacon tells the crowd "Remain Calm......All Is Well..." ....and then he gets run over by same crowd....

Julie Leonardo

This guy obviously doesn't realize that there is a whole other group of kids out there with Autism that also have Down Syndrome. So not only do you have the Autistic issues, you have the cognitive delays as well with even greater hypotonia. Oh and also, Alzheimers. So there will be people out there who can't dress themselves, think on a higher level and with Alzheimers (at like age 40) who have Autism. Boy is it gonna be ugly! We're talking anywhere from 10-18 % of the Down Syndrome community. And just to let you know how much uglier it is, that community tends to NOT do biomedical/nutritional intervention. A lot of parents with kids with DS view their kids as made that way, so they view it in a neurodiversity kind of thing. Now we don't treat our dually dx'd kid this way, so we do interventions ourselves. But we are facing an uphill battle as we have to treat both diagnoses. So when THIS group of kids reaches adulthood, what are they going to do? This ain't a higher functioning group in general, though with biomed, that could change.

First do no pharm

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. "

Could someone tell me what these new treatments are that are often covered by insurance? I must have missed that major development. Geraldine Dawson has referred to new treatments too.

These people are just making it up as they go along, hoping nobody fact-checks them.

Theodore Van Oosbree

These people live in LaLa land. Employment? Ha ! My sons can't even wipe their behinds.


I thought recent studies show the increase is in the severe end of the spectrum, not the mild? Or am I mistaken?

Question: If my son is recovered by age 8, will he never have been counted 'officially'?
I read a pro-vax comment on a different story saying the official numbers include all school aged children receiveing services with an autism dx regardless of age. Is that true?

Sue Morgan

And then what IF these autistic individuals decide to breed and have children? What sort of parenting skills are they likely to carry into parenthood? Seriously? My very high functioning nine-year-old boy tells us daily about the kids he is going to have, and I cringe. Because he should NOT bring children into the world. He is autistic, and he cares primarily about himself and his THINGS. He has very little empathy for living things other than the empathy we have taught him to have through ABA therapy. He may become employable, because he is high functioning, thanks in main to early intervention, IF he is able to focus enough to follow instructions from an employer. But to parent? Shudder the thought.


@ Bob Moffitt,

Well put Bob!

It also raises the question, where are all the Autistic adults in the retirement centres?

I always raise that argument and no-one can answer the question.



Somebody ought to tell Forbes that the autism crisis is just like mortgage backed securities right before everything imploded and the global economy found itself in the outhouse basement. It's like all the media have decided to rely on upbeat predictions that assuage their justifiable niggling doubts. AS, the Morningstar of child health, is more than happy to abet their delusion. Guess what, investor class? Those pharma stocks you hold are perched on a web of deceit so huge and tangled it would make Bernie Madoff blush.

Tommy Torocco

There has always been a disconnect between the autism community (all sides) and Autism Speaks, the line would just shift back and forth. This has become progressively worse for families like us as they've made their shift towards being a mostly "high-functioning" org. Bell's comments bare that out. If they continue to "spin" autism as not that big of a deal, Autism Speaks' big problem will come when their contributors start to wonder why they are donating money to "help" such "normal" kids/adults.

They say the greatest trick the devil ever pulled off was convincing people he didn't exist. A close second will be the "nothing to see here, all is well" lie being spun by orgs like AS. Willowbrook Part II will be on the hands of people like Peter Bell for muffling the alarm.


I audited engineering classes when I was in grad school. I don't remember any drooling, head banging, diaper wearing 20yr old males in any of those classes. Maybe something has changed in Peter's local college engineering classes?

These people are insane. Really. The whole 'they'll just be engineers' group of them. They're either in denial or evil. I'm still deciding. Probably both.


So today I've set my mind on a limitless sky, Mia will be in charge of fundraising at Autism Speaks when she ages out. No more Debbie Downer for me! Gianna will take over their happy shiny designer ad campaigns (Taylor Lautner WILL be the new AS spokesperson) and Miss Bella will conduct all future media interviews for AS with the spirit of Beaker in her heart: Hello hello hello hello Bella hello hello hello hello Bella hello hello hello Bella.


Does Peter Bell really believe that garbage he just spewed? Terrible. Our insurance doesn't cover jack, so Autism Speaks ought to focus on the ONLY thing it has ever done that is positive and get us some health care coverage for speech therapy.
Add my child to list of "kids" who I am 99% sure will never marry, live independently, or contribute in a meaningful way to society. What about *them* Peter Bell? They are filling up our special education classrooms at alarming rates. They do not have aspergers and are not high functioning- they do not speak, they are aggressive, they do not have special talents, and they can't even keep themselves safe.

Donna L.

"The sky's the limit." Huh. All these years I've been thinking my son's future employment opportunities might be rather limited, given the fact that he's still putting his underwear on backwards every day. Guess I've just been delusional.

(Kim, it looks like there might be a little room left up at the top of the page for a new 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' category.)

Sandra Lopriore

Just another reason not to walk for Autism Speaks.

Erik Nanstiel

I hate putting a feel-good spin on the future for those with Autism... as though the sense of urgency has diminished?? Meet my daughter! 13 years old, cannot speak, cannot write or type, cannot prepare her own meals, cannot dress herself without assistance, cannot use the toilet... cannot, cannot, cannot... I tire of listing all the things that have been taken from her! All I know is that I have to become wealthy so she'll be set up for life. She is NOT likely to become independent. She is NOT likely to have a job. She is NOT likely to fall in love and get married. And I know a LOT of parents whose children are in the same boat. Most of my 1,500+ facebook friends are autism parents... and a good percentage of them have kids on the severe end of the spectrum. They are not comforted by Mr. Bell's positive outlook. We need to know, medically, what is occurring in our children's bodies, how to reverse it... how to help their brains develop and function as normally as possible... give these kids what they NEED.

Or be forced to stick them in a home when we're too old and incapable of caring for them.

I think the wrong people are taking leadership positions in this community.


Peter Bell drank the Ari Ne'eman kool-aid.

Not to demonize corporations, but most of them don't give a sh*t about the common man...forget about the common man with special needs. Why would a company hire a greeter? Do they really want to pay an extra salary?

By "newer kinds of treatment", does Bell mean drugs that are used off-label, because as far as I know there is no drug for autism.

And does Bell think that a large part of the autism community is getting insurance to cover ABA? I would love to see that statistic.

angus files

His nose just grew across the Atlantic to Scotland ..believe me I can see it...



A good chuckle. That about says it all.

Bob Moffitt

Alice writes:

"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."

Honestly, I don't know how these people sleep at night.

Alice writes its so hard not to think of autism as a childhood disorder .. thereby implying that autism has always been constant in the adult population throughout previous generations.

Which raises the obvious question:

If autism is NOT a recent, inexplicable, exploding childhood disorder .. why "in the next decade alone, 500,000 children with autism will come of age"?

Where are the 500,000 children with autism that had come of age in all previous decades?

Of course .. the answer to that vexing question rests entirely upon Alice finally admitting the dramatic increase in autism is a RECENT phenomenon .. more than likely "triggered" by something introduced to the child's environment about ten or fifteen years ago .. as evidenced by the 500,000 soon to become adults.

In any event, whatever that environmental "trigger" is .. it extends from Maine to California, North Dakota to Texas .. which more or less eliminates local "air, food and water" as the primary source.

Gee .. I wonder what SINGLE environmental source those "500,000 soon to become adults" shared as children?


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