Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition that affects individuals in various ways. While there is a growing focus on autism in children, it is essential to recognize that autism does not magically disappear when a person turns 18. In fact, the transition into adulthood can bring about a unique set of challenges and opportunities for individuals with autism. In this blog post, we will explore what life is like for those with autism over 18 and how society can better support their journey into adulthood.
The Transition to Adulthood
For individuals with autism, the transition to adulthood can be a particularly challenging time. This period typically involves significant life changes, such as finishing high school, pursuing higher education, entering the workforce, and gaining more independence. These transitions can be overwhelming for anyone, but for those with autism, they often require additional support and adjustments.
Challenges Faced by Adults with Autism
- Employment: Finding and maintaining employment can be a significant challenge for adults with autism. While many individuals with autism have valuable skills and talents, they may struggle with social interactions, communication, and sensory sensitivities that can impact their ability to succeed in a traditional work environment.
- Independent Living: Achieving independence in daily life, including managing finances, cooking, and maintaining a home, can be daunting. Adults with autism often require guidance and support to develop these essential life skills.
- Social Relationships: Building and maintaining social relationships can be challenging for adults with autism, as they may continue to face difficulties with social communication and understanding social cues. Loneliness and isolation can become significant concerns.
- Access to Healthcare: Ensuring access to appropriate healthcare services, including mental health support, is crucial. Individuals with autism may experience co-occurring conditions like anxiety and depression, which can require specialized care.
- Legal and Financial Matters: Navigating legal and financial matters can be complicated. Guardianship, disability benefits, and estate planning may require careful consideration and support.
Opportunities and Solutions
Early transition planning is essential to prepare individuals with autism for adulthood. Obtaining a current diagnostic evaluation is recommended as this will be needed in the Medicaid/ALTCS/DDD redetermination process before the individual turns 18. It is also important to set goals, identify strengths and weaknesses, and develop strategies to address challenges.
- Legal Options at 18: Raising Special Kids (RSK) has a great workshop on this topic that discusses Supported Decision Making, Powers of Attorney, Guardianship, and other options individuals and families have as a child reaches the age of majority.
- Vocational Training and Employment Support: Programs that offer vocational training and job placement services can help adults with autism find meaningful employment that matches their skills and interests. Understanding how employment may impact eligibility for benefits is critical. DB101 is an excellent tool to help individuals and families learn how people with disabilities can work and keep their social security and health benefits.
- Social Skills Training: Continuing to work on social skills can be invaluable. Social skills training programs can provide the tools needed to navigate social situations more successfully.
- Independent Living Programs: There are programs available that teach essential life skills, such as budgeting, cooking, and household management, to promote independent living.
- Community Support: Building a supportive community is crucial for adults with autism. Local autism organizations, support groups, and online communities can offer guidance, encouragement, and a sense of belonging.
- Advocacy and Policy Change: Advocating for policies that support the rights and well-being of adults with autism is essential. This includes better access to healthcare, education, and employment opportunities.
Autism does not have an expiration date at 18; it is a lifelong journey. The challenges faced by adults with autism can be significant, but with the right support and resources, they can lead fulfilling lives and contribute meaningfully to society. It is crucial for society to recognize the ongoing needs of individuals with autism and work towards creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for them as they navigate the complexities of adulthood. By fostering understanding, promoting education, and advocating for change, we can help make the journey of "autism over 18" a more positive and empowering experience.
AZA United's Family Support Team provides support and guidance for families facing any number of challenges as they navigate the Autism journey. This service is available at no charge to all members of the autism and developmental disability community. You may make a phone appointment that works with your schedule by visiting azaunited.org/supportcall
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