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New solutions for the booming cost of adult autism

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“We’re not going to live forever” is an all too common mantra for parents of children who have autism. Sadly, it is not an original thought, but one that is multiplying every eleven minutes, as another child is diagnosed with this complex and often devastating disorder.

A glimpse at the next ten years forecasts a half a million adults who will be in need of housing and community support. Currently, seventy per cent of children with autism, still live with their parents. What does happen when their parents are no longer capable of supporting them?

Autism Speaks has made its mission, to change the conversation, implore society to join in the efforts, be proactive, and spawn creative partnerships that will change the future for individuals living with autism. It is with this in mind that Autism Speaks recently released a short film that exemplifies the vital need for services, while covering the span of the autism spectrum disability.

Experts in the field, point out that the United States devotes a significant amount of dollars into educating children who have autism, but systematically pull the plug when the child reaches twenty one. It is not a conscious effort to be cruel, it is a fiscal plug. The funding stops, just when it is most needed. Vincent Strully, Jr. Founder and CEO of The New England Center for Autism points out that when that plug is pulled, “we see regression in all kinds of areas”. He fervently believes investing in individuals while they are young and serve them on a minimal basis, is much less expensive than serving them later years in custodial care. The cost for society would be greater.

There is no one- size –fits- all program or a perfect plan. Investigation is tedious, and frightening. However, the collective cry that parents share is articulated: “if he could just find a place to live that’s safe”….” I have been contemplating what happens when the school bus stops coming, almost from the day it arrived”….”

Given dwindling government resources and so few options, the time to act is now. Patrick Dollard, president and CEO of The Center for Discovery cuts to the chase when he states “there are still a lot of people who put their hands over their head ….it’s not coming it’s not coming……it’s here!”. The time to act is now.

Various programs are sprouting around the country to foster independence for young adults. It will prove fruitful in the long run, for the massive cost to society. John Maltby, Director of Communications for the Westchester Institute for Human Development aptly states that there is "good evidence that the more that people are integrated into the community..employed in typical settings...the better the outcome for the taxpayer".

Listen to the young adults in this video. Hear them. Individuals from the BCUW/Madeline Partnership, WJCS POINT Program and The Center for Discovery dispel the myth that people with autism cannot socialize.

The time to act is now. It is an alarm for society to wake up, take notice, and be part of the solution.

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