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Approximately one out of every 88 children born in the U.S. has some form of autism, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. These numbers forecast that between 45,000 to 50,000 children with autism turn 18 every year, which potentially portends to an impending health care and community care crisis moving into the future. With state and local resources already taxed when dealing with adults with autism disorders, the future increase of patients threatens to push available services past their limits.

The law requires public schools to provide services to individuals with autism disorders until they turn 22, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. After passing that age requirement, the responsibility for care then shifts from public institutions to family members who must find employment and educational opportunities for individuals with autism and suitable living arrangements.

However, mental health experts already noted that a shortage of necessary programs already exists for adults with autism and that this trend is likely to become worse as the number of children who have been diagnosed with the disorder age into adulthood.

One of the biggest obstacles facing public agencies is that the services an individual with autism needs varies from person to person. For some individuals, custodial care is needed for their entire lives, while others can live has highly functioning and successful adults whose typical behavior may only be viewed as quirky by those around them.

While certain themes remain consistent among individuals with autism, no one trait applies to every individual with the disorder.

Higher education, for example, and the enrollment in college remains an option for some children who are on the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum, but even these individuals face certain challenges that can impede their development.

A substantial mismatch can exist for individuals with autism between their verbal skill and performance skills. So while complex concepts involving mathematics and critical reasoning may come easily to some individuals with an autism disorder like Asperger’s, social interactions, such as asking someone out for coffee, scheduling a time to study, or even making it to class on time, may prove difficult.

While many college’s offer disability services that might be able to provide some assistance with this type of transition, the effectiveness of these programs can vary greatly from institution depending on the experience and training of the available staff.

For individuals who don’t go to college, joining the workforce can be a significant challenge. While some employers may exhibit a level of understanding towards employees with autism, production still remains the bottom line of any business. This makes it imperative the individuals with the disorder are properly matched with careers that fit their abilities.

For parents of children with autism, it becomes imperative they begin the preparations for adulthood at a young age. Most mental health experts recommend parents start a dialogue with a child’s special education team after the child has entered the 8th or 9th grade to allow enough time to research potential resources once their child reaches adulthood.

Timothy Lemke is a freelance health writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Brooke Hikade, a Clackamas dentist.


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