Adults with autism advocate for support

Published: Oct. 27, 2017 at 6:19 PM EDT
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When mentioning autism, people invariably 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,” explains Julia Bascom.

Julia is the executive director at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and thinks our work with autism is misguided.

“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,” she states.

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,” says Julia.

There are two keys for success: support and social services.

“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,” Julia explains.

Besides economic support, Julia says social acceptance is essential, and Professor Roy Grinker, 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,” Grinker says.

Like everyone, autistic adults need the proverbial village: social interaction, loving family and friends, along with life-skills reinforcement.

“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 says one in 68 children are born with autism, an increase of 30 percent. Five times as many boys as girls are affected and most do reach adulthood.

If you’d like to find out more about helping adults with autism, visit


REPORT #2466

BACKGROUND: Autism currently affects 1 in 68 children. Boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls. About 40 percent of children with autism do not speak, and about 25-30 percent of children have some words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them. Autism is a neurological development disability that generally appears before the age of 3. It impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. They can often suffer from other medical conditions like allergies, asthma, epilepsy, digestive disorders, sleeping disorders and more. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder, growing steadily over the last twenty years and varies from person to person. It does not affect life-expectancy; however research has shown that the mortality risk among individuals with autism is twice as high as the general population, in large part due to drowning and other accidents. Currently, there is no cure for autism, though with early intervention and treatment, the symptoms related to autism can be greatly improved and in some cases, completely overcome.


AUTISM CARE: The primary goal for children with autism is to improve the overall ability of the child to function. Treatment strategies are tailored to individual needs and available family resources. However, children with autism respond best to highly structured and specialized treatment. A program that addresses helping parents and improving communication, social, behavioral, and learning aspects of a child’s life will be the most successful. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends several strategies for helping a child to improve overall function like behavioral training and management, specialized therapies which include speech, occupational and physical therapies, medicines, and community support and parent training. New research suggests young adults with autism are facing significant challenges and finding themselves unemployed, isolated and lacking services. More than one-third of those with autism don’t work or continue their education in their early twenties, while 26 percent receive no support services at all. Paul Shattuck, an associate professor at Drexel University’s A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, says, “A critical next step is to figure out what facilitates connections to outcomes and what helps people to continue to succeed across their early adult years.”

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UP AND COMING FOR AUTISM: A new prototype software application, called Holli, has been designed as a social-skills coach for children with autism. It is to be used with the optical head-mounted display, Google Glass, shaped like eyeglasses. This new study finds that the wearable technology can recognize conversational prompts and provide the user with suitable responses in return. Assistant Professor, Azadeh Kushki, from the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, says, “The interesting thing about our new technology is that we are not trying to replace human-to-human interactions; instead, we use this app to coach children who are communicating with people in real-world situations.” Children are able to practice beyond their normal therapy sessions. It also provides them with increased independence in everyday interactions.