An imbalance of attention seems to exist in the autism community. Often the media and others place a predominant focus on children who have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The tendency is understandable, considering 1 in 88 children are thought to be diagnosed with an ASD, and early diagnosis and intervention are critical to reach the best outcomes.
As these children with ASDs grow up, an increasing number of young adults with autism are entering society. In fact, it’s estimated that during the next ten years, more than 500,000 young people with ASDs will turn 18. The imbalance of attention, however, often means that this group and its needs are being ignored.
According to a study by the University of Missouri, between the years 2003 and 2008, the number of people with autism seeking vocational rehabilitation (VR) services to facilitate attending college, developing careers, or increasing independence rose nearly 300 percent. And today the combined unemployment and underemployment rate of individuals with autism is nearly 90 percent.
Thankfully, some have stepped up to help. The New York Times recently featured an article about a Denmark-based company called Specialisterne. The company recognizes the strengths that often accompany high-functioning autism and lead to success in the workplace. High levels of focus and attention to detail make individuals with autism exceptionally good at tasks that require these abilities.
Some local businesses have also begun supporting the employment of individuals with autism. A woman in the St. Louis area opened a consignment shop specifically to teach employment skills to students in the Center for Autism Education before graduation.
Many individuals with autism can thrive in the workplace. Unfortunately, there is a lack of VR support to aid the transition from school to a more independent lifestyle. While the awareness of autism in children is important, therapy and VR are also crucial to achieve an optimal level of independence later in life. The 1 in 88 statistic is staggering, but we need to remember that an autism diagnosis doesn’t expire as these children grow into adults.