Mention autism and invariably people talk about autistic children. But as they get older and the hope of a cure fades, what support they get as young adults becomes critical because their futures depend on that support.
"We're spending a huge amount of money on how to make sure that people like us don't exist," said Julia Bascom, executive director of Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
Bascom thinks our work with autism is misguided.
Bascom said, "Autistic life can be a good life. It's a life worth living. But, we spend a shockingly disproportionate amount of money on cure and prevention, as opposed to on services and support."
Like all of her staff, Julia is autistic.
"We don't see autism in and of itself as something that needs to be cured or medicated away," said Bascom.
Two keys for success: support and social services.
Bascom continued, "I have a job. I have an apartment. I live with a roommate. I can't live on my own, so I have my roommate and my sister and other friends help me navigate the things that I need help with. How I do something might be different, but, it's really everything I want."
Besides economic support, Bascom said social acceptance is essential. George Washington University Autism Expert and Professor of Anthropology, Roy Grinker, Ph.D., agrees.
"The more we see a decline in stigma and the more we see economic and social contributions by people with a quote, unquote condition, the more popular it will become," explained Grinker.
Like everyone, autistic adults need the proverbial village; social interaction, loving family, and friends, along with life-skills reinforcement.
Bascom said, "It's gonna be okay. You want to start thinking about adulthood early because the systems can be a little bit confusing to navigate to get services in place. You can have the life that you want. It might look different. It might take longer to get there. But, it really is possible."
The CDC said one in 68 children are born with autism, an increase of 30 percent. Five times as many boys as girls are affected. Most do reach adulthood. If you would like to find out more about helping adults with autism, then visit autisticadvocacy.org.