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People with Autism and Aging

  • Date: 2014/03/10 (Rev: 2017/11/17) Thomas C. Weiss - Disabled World
  • Synopsis : Article looks at some of the issues that can occur when children with autism reach maturity and become seniors.

Main Document

Scientists and health care professionals specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), the well-known range of developmental disabilities commonly diagnosed during childhood, have logged thousands of hours in their effort to better understand the causes of ASD, develop effective interventions and offer psychological support for children with autism and their family members. Their efforts have paid off in providing better options for young people affected by autism. Yet what happens when children with autism grow up

As children with autism age, things become more problematic. The reality is that people with ASD, the same ones who were treated with such care and concern as children, are likely to be seriously under-served as adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 1 in 110 children in America has ASD. In the 1970's the accepted estimate was 1 in 3,000. The increase in diagnoses has brought an increase of attention to assisting children with autism as well. The fact is, as children with autism age, interest wanes.

Between the years 2003 and 2008, the number of people with ASD who applied for vocational rehabilitation services increased 337% in America. The rate of increase matches, almost exactly, the increase first noticed among special education children from 1993 to 1998. The full data set spans even more years, with a cumulative increase reaching almost 800%. The time difference between the two data sets; a decade, is almost enough time for the group of young children who were diagnosed with autism in 1993 to start finishing high school.

People with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • 1 in 110 children in America has ASD
  • In the 1970's the estimate was 1 in 3,000
  • People with Autism are very diverse and difficult to generalize
  • Of working age people with disabilities 21% say they are employed
  • Between 2003 and 2008 the number of people with ASD who applied for VR services increased by 337%

The vocational rehabilitation system is a network of state agencies operating under the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration. Its goal is very simple - to assist people with disabilities to have successful careers. The guiding assumption of vocational rehabilitation (VR) is that employment and productivity lead to the person's independence, which is a right everyone should enjoy.

People with ASD are very diverse and difficult to generalize. It is important to know the person and match the job to the person's characteristics. What happens to older people with autism and how to help them as they age remains as much of a mystery today as treating children with autism was 60 years ago.

Other than concerns such as financial and residential status, little is known about how to cope with the daily struggles and complications that people with autism have to face as they age. Considering that not everyone with autism or similar disabilities will be living in a managed care situation, analysis and data collection into the most basic themes of aging and autism are greatly needed.

In the nation of Israel, services for adults with autism have been appearing all across the country at an incredible pace. The number of state-of-the-art institutions and in-home care services are based on new millennium planning and well researched models; ones worth duplicating around the world. For example; 'Aleh's network,' cares for Israel's most severely disabled children, offering them the best rehabilitation for the social and economical future of people with autism in Israel. Aleh has built a village in Israel called, 'Aleh Negev,' for children with serious forms of disabilities for when they become adults, a rehabilitation village for people who need around the clock therapeutic care. Funding is raised in America with the, 'American Friends of Aleh Foundation,' to keep the project going.

The International Center for Autism Research and Education, Inc. (ICare4Autism), has held their first annual International Autism Conference in Jerusalem. More than 600 people attended, filling the Ramada-Renaissance for the event that featured more than 30 speakers from around the world. The conference featured educational and medical information related to autism and also featured lectures on, 'The Aging with Autism Process.'

In the United States of America, employment rates have not changed much since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed unfortunately. A survey from the National Organization on Disability reported, "Of all working age people with disabilities, only 21% say that they are employed, compared to 59% of people without disabilities." One has to wonder how long it will take for employers in America to realize the enormous value of employees with disabilities. As people with autism become adults, they are certainly capable of performing a variety of job-related duties and demonstrating their immense value to employers.

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