The Adolescent Years
Adolescence is typically a time of stress and confusion; it is no less so for teenagers with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Like all children, they need help in dealing with their budding sexuality. While some behaviors improve during the teenage years, some get worse. Increased autistic or aggressive behavior may be one way some teens express their newfound tension and confusion.
The teenage years are also a time when children become more socially sensitive. At the age that most teenagers are concerned with acne, popularity, grades, and dates, teens with ASD may become painfully aware that they are different from their peers. They may notice that they lack friends. And unlike their schoolmates, they aren’t dating or planning for a career. For some, the sadness that comes with such realization motivates them to learn new behaviors and acquire better social skills.
The Adult Years
Some adults with ASD, especially those with high-functioning autism, are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs. Nevertheless, communication and social problems often cause difficulties in many areas of life. These adults will continue to need encouragement and moral support in their struggle for an independent life.
Many others with ASD are capable of employment in sheltered workshops under the supervision of managers trained in working with persons with disabilities. A nurturing environment at home, at school, and later in job training and at work, helps persons with ASD continue to learn and to develop throughout their lives.
Public schools’ responsibility for providing services ends when the person with ASD reaches the age of 22. The family is then faced with the challenge of finding living arrangements and employment to match the particular needs of their adult child, as well as the programs and facilities that can provide support services to achieve these goals. Long before your child finishes school, you will want to search for the best programs and facilities for your young adult. If you know other parents of adults with ASD, ask them about the services available in your community. If your community has little to offer, serve as an advocate for your child and work toward the goal of improved services.
Living arrangements for the adult with an autism spectrum disorder
Independent living: Some adults with ASD are able to live entirely on their own. Others can live semi-independently in their own home or apartment if they have assistance with solving major problems, such as personal finances or dealing with the government agencies that provide services to persons with disabilities. This assistance can be provided by family, a professional agency, or another type of provider.
Living at home: Government funds are available for families that choose to have their adult child with ASD live at home. These programs include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicaid waivers, and others. Information about these programs is available from the Social Security Administration (SSA). An appointment with a local SSA office is a good first step to take in understanding the programs for which the young adult is eligible.
Skill-development homes: Some families open their homes to provide long-term care to unrelated adults with disabilities. If the home teaches self-care and housekeeping skills and arranges leisure activities, it is called a “skill-development” home.
Supervised group living: Persons with disabilities frequently live in group homes or apartments staffed by professionals who help the individuals with basic needs. These often include meal preparation, housekeeping, and personal care needs. Higher functioning persons may be able to live in a home or apartment where staff visit only a few times a week. These persons generally prepare their own meals, go to work, and conduct other daily activities on their own.
Institutions: Although the trend in recent decades has been to avoid placing persons with disabilities into long-term care institutions, this alternative is still available for persons with ASD who need intensive, constant supervision. Unlike many of the institutions of years past, today’s facilities view residents as individuals with human needs and offer opportunities for recreation and basic, meaningful work.
This article is information only. It is not meant to give medical advice. It should not be used to replace a visit with a provider. Blue Shield of California does not endorse other resources that may be mentioned here.