Search This Blog

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Autistic Adults and the Tsunami

Two demographic trends will influence autism politics in the coming decades. First, the identified autistic population will get bigger, particularly in the adult range. Service providers refer to this coming change as a “tsunami,” after a large ocean wave that is barely visible when it moves over deep water but packs great power when it hits land. Second, the general population will be getting older just as the autism tsunami arrives, complicating the policy response.
Cindy Godwin writes at USA Today:
As the number of autistic children grows, so does the number of autistic adults. Their needs remain much the same as they age, yet the support they once received fades. Though families like mine are feeling it most acutely, this is an issue for everyone to consider. The tsunami of adults with autism is coming.

Programs for autistic adults vary from state to state and community to community, depending on when they were diagnosed and whether they are “high” or “low” functioning. But there is widespread agreement that there simply are not enough providers and options. The needs of adults with autism “far exceed the available resources, leaving a generation of individuals with autism and their families in programmatic, financial and personal limbo,” researchers Peter Gerhardt and Ilene Lainer wrote in 2010, and that remains the case.
Just this month in Iowa, Hillary Clinton announced her plan to support people with autism across their lifespans, bringing needed attention to this problem. One of our biggest challenges is finding affordable, supportive housing. A quality residential program costs more per year than sending your child to Stanford. Imagine paying $50,000 or more annually for the rest of your son’s or daughter’s life, with no graduation ceremony in sight.