Serving adults with autism

    The diagnosis of autism has risen dramatically in recent years. That has left many communities scrambling to figure out what services people with autism need – not just in childhood but later in life. At a recent conference at Drexel University, adults with autism, parents, and service providers tried to come up with solutions.

    The diagnosis of autism has risen dramatically in recent years. That has left many communities scrambling to figure out what services people with autism need – not just in childhood but later in life. At a recent conference at Drexel University, adults with autism, parents, and service providers tried to come up with solutions.

    Listen:

    [audio:091115msautism.mp3]

    When people with autism become adults, many find themselves with nothing to do. That’s because educational and employment programs often end at age 21.

    22-year old Dan Abrahams has Aspergers, one of the autism spectrum disorders. He is living in a group home and says his inability to function under pressure caused him to lose his last job:

    Abrahams: My manager didn’t understand why I would have episodes at work when I got frustrated, I ended up walking off the job.

    Nina Wall Cote directs Pennsylvania’s bureau of autism services. She says employment is a big hurdle, and one challenge is finding employers who are willing to provide a good work environment for people with autism.

    The day-long conference on Friday connected people at 15 different sites all over the country, who exchanged ideas and electronically voted on solutions.

    Wall Cote says the conversation on adults is just beginning:

    Wall-Cote:
    I think the whole focus has primarily been on children with autism, but now, the conversation is shifting. There are adults with autism out there who have been struggling for some time but the wave of children who are going to be hitting the adult service arena very soon is forcing these other discussions.

    Artie Kempner is a board member of Autism Speaks and Autism Delaware. He says brain storming on a national level will lead to better solutions:

    Kempner: We’ve got some really great programs, not just in the Philadelphia area and in Delaware, but also across the country. And if we bring all these people together, and bring employers in as well, and they can understand the needs, we can better serve the community of adults with autism.

    Experts at the conference agreed that many adults with autism are able to work as long as they are in supportive environment and employers understand their special needs.

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