The Case for Long-Term Support of Children with ASD
School issues and pressures also evolve and change. When one looks at the ECS curriculum, there is very little abstract thinking involved. Jump to the grade 3 curriculum and one not only sees the requirement of abstract thinking, but also increased peer group interactions within the context of curriculum. Social demands increase. Homework becomes an expectation in the upper elementary grades and increased independence.
Move forward another year or two, and we begin to see puberty setting in. The typical child struggles with sexual development. How are our children supposed to manage when they already have difficulty relating to others? What about the sensory issues around menstruation? How does one teach when it is appropriate to masturbate or how to do it? What about safety issues around sexuality? How do we impart to our children what situations are safe, what kind of attention is appropriate to give and receive? How to we teach them to communicate wrong doings against them?
As our children move through the school system, the demands increase. School population and class sizes increase at the junior high/senior high level. There are more transitions with class changes and different students within each class. Bullying and teasing are major issues children with ASD’s have to deal with. The school community has to become involved in their well-being.
Presently, there is a significant drop-off in services for individuals over 18. Transitioning from school to the world of work is a major life event. Temple Grandin wrote a brilliant article on transitioning and the struggles people with autism face during this process. Studies are showing poor outcomes for young adults in the areas of employment, accommodation, and mental health. In the province of Alberta, a person has to have an IQ below 70 to receive Personal With Developmental Disabilties funding. IQ does not necessarily determine functioning level, hence a person can have an IQ of 150 but not be able to manage personal hygiene and maintanence of an apartment but the high IQ disqualifies him from funding.
Abandoning funding for individuals whose needs do not disappear but rather change is to leave our children behind. There is a need to build both vocational and domestic skills if there is any hope for independence after high school. It is more expensive to institutionalize individuals than it is to have them live independently or with support. Every person is entitled to live a meaningful life, which will look different for each person. How we get there is by providing on-going support and services that cater to an individual’s changing needs as they move through the lifespan.
The core problems will always remain the same until there is a cure for autism. They will only present themselves differently as the child ages and the demands of life become more complex.
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