As we near the end of Autism Awareness Month 2015, I have experienced a different awareness, one for which I am thankful and burdened.
For Triumph, Autism Awareness has always been a celebration. A celebration of what makes people who have autism unique and wonderful. This year, my awareness is an awakening to the reality for young adults with autism and their families.
I am a parent of two amazing daughters and three incredible step daughters. I worry about their future. I worry that they may experience difficulty in their careers, that they may suffer in future relationships, that they will inevitably experience grief and disappointment. These worries are a blessing.
The reality for individuals with autism and their families is that the future after high school is not bright. The reality is that individuals with autism begin regressing at a fast rate without the structure of an individualized program that meets their unique needs. I imagine that their families would be delighted to have careers and relationships in mind about which to worry. There are few service providers for this growing population of young adults. There is a vast shortfall in funding for such services.
I cannot imagine looking at my 5 daughters with the reality that they will begin regressing at the age of 21.
Don’t misunderstand: I celebrate every single person I meet who has autism. I recently spoke at a local university and was asked what I consider the greatest strengths and weakness are for folks with autism. You may as well have asked me what I consider the greatest strengths and weaknesses are for blondes. There is no way I could answer that question. Every person brings his own gifts, vulnerabilities, humor, and personality.
As we finish this month I hope that others will join me in waking up to the reality that people who have autism are certainly to be celebrated but, more importantly, people who have autism must be addressed. It is inexcusable to have a growing population waiting to regress. Please do your part in sharing the needs of individuals and their families, as well as the gifts.