The word spectrum implies a “broad range.” In regards to Autism Spectrum Disorder, this speaks volumes. Many people are beginning to understand autism as a very broad diagnosis with no exact definition. You may meet multiple people with this diagnosis and they will have a broad range of abilities, disabilities, and ways autism makes them stand apart.
The general public mostly hears of diagnoses with clear cut definitions, parameters, explanations, and things that can be “cured”. With autism, we still don’t know the reason some individuals develop on the spectrum and others do not. It’s thought to be genetic and environmental, but there’s no definitive known reasoning to date. There’s no cure for autism and it’s not some sort of phase to grow out of. It’s something that an individual is born with and will have all their life.
According to the CDC, an autism diagnosis can accurately be made as early as age two, but most children will not be diagnosed until they are about 4 years old. Early intervention, such as Applied Behavior Analysis, can then begin after diagnosis to help the child live as exceptional of a life as possible.
“Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as social skills, communication, reading, and academics as well as adaptive learning skills, such as fine motor dexterity, hygiene, grooming, domestic capabilities, punctuality, and job competence,” per Psychology Today.
The frequency and type of therapy will vary from child to child based on their strengths and needs, but it comes at a cost. Special-learning.com puts it wonderfully, “Unfortunately, these programs can be very costly, and may not be adopted by many school systems. Numerous parents search for funding and staffing from other sources, which can be difficult to allocate in various communities.” They go on to estimate services can range from $5,000 to $20,000 annually. This may seem cost prohibitive, but these are lower estimates compared to some others.
Luckily, as of 2018, 47 US states have mandates that require certain insurance companies help cover ABA therapy. You can check out the full list at ASHA. Many families also rely on Medicaid to help pay for services, which you can learn more about from AutisticAdvocacy.org.
Unfortunately, in many states, services for autism end when the child turns 21. Then what?
The goal for many families is for their individual with autism to become self-sufficient, or to find work. As it turns out, this can be incredibly difficult. In 2015, Drexel University did a study that found four out of 10 adults with autism don’t work between their high school graduation and their 20th birthday. This is the lowest number out of all the disability groups surveyed.
This lack of opportunities can be detrimental to these individuals’ mental health. Not only have these young adults lost the services that they’ve been utilizing since early childhood, but they’ve successfully completed school, and are unable to find work. The good news is that there is a small movement beginning to help change this.
Over the coming months, PHI will be providing information on job training programs and companies that make a point to hire individuals with autism. Check back here regularly for updates!