While it is a lifelong developmental disability, autism is not labeled as an intellectual disability.
That is an important distinction because most public and private support agencies helping people find work or community involvement focus only on individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Adults with autism who aren’t working cannot pay fees to get into the few supporting programs that may help them. Public money pays most of the bills.
Chelsey Holmes, associate program director at the Arc, said the most typical funding resource for the Arc and similar agencies is Medicaid, the state and federal program that pays for medical care for the disabled, the poor and some other groups.
“If some people on spectrum don’t qualify for an intellectual disabilities waiver or don’t have a diagnosis of brain injuries, then they may not be qualified for the services,” Holmes said. “So there is a little bit of gap for people on the autism spectrum, especially those that are higher functioning.”
Steve Muller, executive director of the Homestead in Altoona, said that unemployment or underemployment is one of the most serious concerns for adults with autism, “especially among those with an IQ of 75 or above.”
“Funding for helping adults with any developmental disability, including autism, is severely limited in Iowa,” Muller said. “The few that receive funding have a diagnosis of mental retardation and autism, leaving many without supports. This is a critical problem.”