It occurred to me suddenly the other day, my daughters aren’t babies anymore. I know this may sound ridiculous. Of course I know the ages of my own children. I have two teenagers and a tween.
As we near the middle of summer and I start to ponder the back to school schedule, I realize now that all my daughters will be in junior high or high school. Wow, I blinked and the grade school years are just memories and collected art projects. In only four short years my oldest will be ready for college, or whatever post school path she chooses to pursue. Since my girls are close in age, my other daughters will not be far behind in leaving the public education system.
You don’t outgrow autism.
Children grow up. They become adults. Children with autism grow up. Children with autism become adults with autism. This may seem obvious. Unfortunately, many in society mistakenly believe that autism is a childhood disorder. Some think that when the clock strikes midnight on an autistic child’s eighteenth birthday, that child suddenly transforms into a typical adult. The autism has magically disappeared without a trace. You may think no one would ever believe such a ridiculous notion. The truth is, people do believe one can outgrow autism. This simply isn’t true.
We aren’t cured of autism.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders can develop and learn coping strategies that make life more manageable. Many therapies such as Applied Behavior Analysis, speech therapy and social groups help autistic individuals learn valuable skills. Although I never received any formal therapies, due to a very late (adult) diagnosis, I am able to appear “normal” or “cured” at times.
The truth is, I am not normal (which I am totally okay with). I still have autism. I didn’t outgrow it. As a whole generation of children with autism spectrum disorders becomes of age in the next decade, there will be an untold number of autistic adults in our society. Yes, some of us on the spectrum will appear to be “typical,” but we are not cured.
We must prepare for the future.
Functioning levels are based on a number of factors. The reality is that some on the spectrum will be better at social functioning and others will not. Our society and educational systems need to prepare our children and employers for the futures of those with autism.
Our children will enter the workforce, universities and colleges. We parents need to advocate for programs designed to prepare our children for adulthood, whatever that may look like for each individual person.
I have recently seen in the news that a number of universities are offering programs for autistics. There are also a growing number of companies seeking autistic individuals for training and employment programs. Individuals with autism provide invaluable skills to the workforce. We are focused, hardworking and loyal. Many of us have special skills that are not plentiful in a typical worker.
Don’t count us out.
Adults on the spectrum go to college, get jobs, get married and have children. We are already present in everyday society. We often go unnoticed, blending in almost seamlessly. Autism is called a spectrum disorder for a reason. Each individual with autism is different. We all function at our own levels and pace. For some, that may mean university and medical school. For others, it may mean job training and job placement. My point is, don’t count us out after childhood ends and adulthood begins.
Encourage children with autism to see the possibilities the future has to offer them. There are more autistic adults than you might think. We are a strong powerful community. Together we can conquer the world.
I am autistic. I am an adult. My children with autism will be adults with autism. Let’s not just focus on getting through childhood. Let’s plan for the future.