WASHINGTON - Mention autism and invariably, people talk about children with autism, but as they get older and the hope of a cure fades, what support they get as young adults becomes critical because their futures depend on that support.
"We're spending a huge amount of money on how to make sure that people like us don't exist," said Julia Bascom, executive director of Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
Bascom thinks our work with autism is misguided.
"Autistic life can be a good life. It's a life worth living, but we spend a shockingly disproportionate amount of money on cure and prevention, as opposed to on services and support," Bascom said.
Like all of her staff, Bascom is autistic.
"We don't see autism in and of itself as something that needs to be cured or medicated away," said Bascom.
Two keys for success: support and social services.
"I have a job. I have an apartment. I live with a roommate. I can't live on my own, so I have my roommate and my sister and other friends help me navigate the things that I need help with," Bascom continued. "How I do something might be different, but it's really everything I want."
Besides economic support, Bascom said social acceptance is essential. George Washington University autism expert and anthropology professor Roy Grinker agrees.
"The more we see a decline in stigma and the more we see economic and social contributions by people with a quote, unquote condition, the more popular it will become," explained Grinker.
Like everyone, adults with autism need the proverbial village: social interaction, loving family and friends, along with life-skills reinforcement.
"It's gonna be OK. You want to start thinking about adulthood early, because the systems can be a little bit confusing to navigate to get services in place," Bascom said. "You can have the life that you want. It might look different. It might take longer to get there, but it really is possible."
The CDC said one in 68 children are born with autism, an increase of 30 percent. Five times as many boys as girls are affected. Most do reach adulthood.
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