The stories on research, education and support related to children with autism seem to appear daily. Awareness is growing, and so are the children. Approximately 50,000 individuals with ASD turn 18 each year in the United States. What happens when children diagnosed on the autism spectrum grow up?
I think about this often now that Ryan is a young adult. We formally began planning for transition when he turned 14 years old. However, even in his elementary years I focused on transition. I’d often consider: “Is this skill functional that he will be able to use as an adult?” Parents often wonder: “How will my child get assistance with employment, housing, transportation, higher education and other services?”
Since autism is a spectrum disorder, the required resources and services may range from group home living to supported living, vocational training or employment. And yet, young adults on the autistic spectrum may qualify academically for college, yet struggle with other aspects of college life. So, how do we answer the demand?
The nation is responding. The Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence and Navigation Act of 2013, or AGE-IN Act, is a national call to action to ensure young adults are provided the resources to lead valuable, satisfying lives. U.S. Senator Bob Menendez put forth the bill. The AGE-IN Act would fund research, training, and planning for a pilot program for adult transition services. PA Governor Corbett also addressed the long term needs of adults with ASD and developmental disabilities who have aged out of the educational system.
As our children grow, we grow along with them, and often, learn from them. I know I’ve learned much from Ryan through our journey together. Now, I’m learning that the “talk” of autism spectrum disorder must grow; changing from saying “children with autism” to “people with autism.”