Adult ASD Services: What Happens After High School?
A person’s IQ does not measure social skills, adaptive functioning, or executive functioning skills. High intelligence does not mean a person can: work well with others, read facial expressions, communicate effectively, hold down a job long-term, or take care of basic needs such as personal hygiene or proper nutrition. A funding cut off based on an IQ of 70 seems rather arbitrary and assumes someone with that score is a fully functioning member of society.
On March 3, 2010, the UK published its Adult Autism Strategy which has lead to change for public services for adults with autism. “Actions in the autism strategy include a new National Autism Programme Board to lead change in public services set out in the strategy; a programme to develop training with health and social care professional bodies (backed by a £500,000 investment); autism awareness training for all Job Centre Disability Employment Advisers; guidance on making public services accessible for adults with autism, like improving buildings, public transport and communication; and a clear, consistent pathway for diagnosis.” (Dept. of Health, UK)
I think what holds Canada back from creating a national adult autism strategy is health and education are the responsibility of provincial governments, not the federal government. Each province has different mandates, services vary widely from coast to coast, and there is a discrepancy in services between rural and urban settings. We are a large country that is sparsely populated with cities that are separated by great distances. Only at the federal government level could an adult autism strategy become a reality. If a small country like Denmark can have a national autism plan, why can’t Canada?
Last year Autism Calgary Association published a guide about all aspects of life as an adult on the autism spectrum. I was a co-author on that book. Doing the research, writing and case studies for my chapters was an eye-opening experience. With two of my own children with autism approaching adulthood within the next 5 – 7 years, this guide has helped me see what I have to prepare for. It also made me aware of the deficit of services and choices for an adult with autism. What quality of life will there be with no funding and a limited ability to obtain higher education or hold down a good paying job with responsibilities attached to it? Will my children have to live at home with me if they don’t qualify for adult funding yet can’t earn enough money to live decently?
If we think we’re saving money by not offering services to adults with autism, we have to think again. A recent study by the Autism Society of Edmonton Area projected that by 2012, 60 per cent of children with autism will not qualify for adult funding. Where will these adults live and work? What if they can’t work, what will become of them? What kind of community are we creating where a segment of the population may have to fend for themselves but are not capable of doing so?
Establishing an adult autism strategy may be the answer to a more hopeful future. Something to think about…
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