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Autism affects children even as they age

Autism, which affects approximately 1 in 88 children in the United States, is a developmental condition which is characterized by trouble communicating and interacting socially with peers. HealthDay News reports that most young people who have autism will continue to suffer from the condition as they age. This means that there are 45,000 to 50,000 kids with autism who turn 18 each year, says autism researcher Paul Shattuck, from Washington University in St. Louis.

So what does this mean for the care of these children as they reach the age of majority? Many medical experts in the health care community view this as a serious health care crisis. Although there are some services available in some states, in many states there are not good services to care for this group of kids as they age.

What happens to young children with autism?

Although public schools have done a decent job of providing help and services for younger children, when the child ages out of the school system the responsibility for care shifts from the state to the family members who are then tasked with making sure the young adult has opportunities to contribute to the community and potentially live on their own.

But unfortunately, experts have found many parents may be ill-equipped for the additional responsibilities of helping the young, autistic adult transition to adulthood. Experts argue the challenge can be very difficult for many parents who have historically relied on the public school system but now find there is a shortage of good state resources to help them.

Additionally, the needs of each person with autism varies, which can complicate getting help. For some who have been diagnosed with autism they may be considered a bit “quirky.” Others with autism may have difficulty functioning on their own and may need some type of custodial care or someone to manage their day to day interactions. Others may be unable to live on their own or care for their most basic needs. According to experts, "There are some common themes but there's really nothing that applies to every single person."

Parents with a high functioning autistic child may find their child does well educationally and can attend college and do complex math problems but lacks the social skills to interact appropriately with their peers. What about a child who does not go to college? They are likely to face challenges in the workplace where their employer may be willing to make small accommodations for their condition but may be focused on their “bottom line” and making a profit.

What should families do to help their child with autism?

Experts suggest if you have a child with autism it is never too early to talk about making the transition to adulthood, especially if your family is not going to be able to afford expensive, private options for care. Special education teams within high schools may be able to help you investigate options for your child while your child is still in high school. So while most states and cities lack services to help adults with autism, the family unit can get educated and begin to investigate what options will work best for their child to ensure a positive transition into adulthood.
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