Adults with Autism
Autism is a lifelong condition and the available, necessary supports change as you move through major life phases. Some people with autism maintain successful careers in demanding fields, but unfortunately statistics show that the majority of adults with autism are unemployed. The search for housing and residential supports can be challenging and transportation options can be limiting. The Autism Society of Florida understands the pressing need for supports and programs for people on the spectrum across the lifespan. Your quality of life may depend on ongoing supports that are specific to your educational, medical, social, recreational, family and employment needs.
Below are some options for you to consider.
ASF works to improve outcomes for all people with autism by advocating for crucial funding, services, and inclusion in all aspects of life. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to thrive and be a valued contributing member of society.
Diagnosing ASD in adults is often more difficult than diagnosing ASD in children. In adults, some ASD symptoms can overlap with symptoms of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Adults who notice signs and symptoms of ASD should talk with a doctor and ask for a referral for an ASD evaluation. Although testing for ASD in adults is still being refined, adults can be referred to a neuropsychologist, psychologist, or psychiatrist who has experience with ASD. The expert will ask about:
Social interaction and communication challenges
Information about the adult’s developmental history will help in making an accurate diagnosis, so an ASD evaluation may include talking with parents or other family members.
Getting a correct diagnosis of ASD as an adult can help a person understand past challenges, identify his or her strengths, and obtain the right kind of help. Studies are now under way to determine the types of services and supports that are most helpful for improving the functioning and community integration of transition-age youth and adults with ASD.
Check out online forums. Wrong Planet is the largest forum for autistic individuals to communicate.
#AutChat, is a Twitter hashtag by and for autistic and similarly neurodivergent people. It is used both for unscheduled conversations and weekly scheduled chats.
To help doctor visits go smoother researchers have created the Autism Healthcare Accommodations Tool (AHAT), which generates a customized report to give to your healthcare provider. It includes information to foster effective communication between you and your doctor, and help you better tolerate an exam. The website also includes helpful checklists, worksheets, and tips for your appointments.
Reconnect to your inner artist. Art can be a powerful way to communicate and express yourself on your own terms. Consider participating in online or in-person programs. For example, The Art of Autism is a non-profit organization that features art, poetry, photography, video, and blog posts created by autistic individuals. The Miracle Project, which is based in Los Angeles, is an inclusive theater, film, and expressive arts program for kids, teens, and adults with autism and all abilities. For inspiration, check out The Art of Autism: Shifting Perceptions, which features the artwork and poetry of 77 artists on the autism spectrum.
The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative created an editorially independent and super informative publication called Spectrum, which features news, articles, and webinars.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is a nonprofit organization “created to serve as a national grassroots disability rights organization for the autistic community, advocating for systems change and ensuring that the voices of autistic people are heard in policy debates and the halls of power.” In collaboration with the Autism NOW Center, ASAN provides this excellent guide with information and resources.
The Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN) focuses on providing “community, support, and resources for Autistic women, girls, nonbinary people, and all others of marginalized genders.”
As you graduate from high school and begin postsecondary education, you transition from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This transition affects the types of services provided and the responsibilities of both students and postsecondary institutions. Students with disabilities are welcome on all campuses of the State University System. If you want to receive accommodations while enrolled, contact the student disability office at the university.
Here's a helpful link that provides individual university offices: University Student Disability Resource Centers
Four Year Colleges
More and more four-year colleges provide support services for students with disabilities. This can be a good option for those with milder symptoms. Many schools require students to live on-campus, which may be difficult for those who rely on others to maintain a schedule, or who need more intensive help in other areas.
Cooperative education may not be available at certain colleges. This model allows students to alternate between taking college courses and working in their field of interest. It requires self-advocacy and motivation to get to school and work.
Many community colleges have departments or resources aimed at assisting students with various development disabilities and can be ideal for helping them transition into the working world. Community colleges also offer more flexibility, allowing students to ease into college gradually. Another big plus is that students can continue to live at home and receive support and encouragement from parents or guardians.
Vocational Trade and Technical Schools
These schools teach students job skills that translate directly into the workforce, and their emphasis on hands-on training can be particularly useful to students on the spectrum who benefit from active learning. Technical courses may offer an emotional or creative outlet in addition to educational value, and can be well-suited to students who like to focus on a few selected interests.
Some information gathered from AC Online
Finding the right job can make you feel fulfilled and set you on a path to self sufficiency.
There are various accommodation options and various resources that can help.
Competitive employment is the most independent, with no support offered in the work environment. Some people might be successful in careers that require focus on details but only limited social interaction with colleagues, such as computer sciences, research or library sciences. It could also help to ask for accommodations, such as a workspace without fluorescent lights, in order to feel more comfortable at work. For more about attaining competitive employment, read this article.
(Self-employment is also an option some people with ASD pursue. This requires strong motivation, but can be more flexible than working for a company.)
In supported employment, a system of supports allows people with ASD to pursue paid employment in the community, sometimes as part of a mobile crew, other times individually in a job developed for them.
In secure or sheltered employment, an individual is guaranteed a job in a facility-based setting. People in secure settings generally receive work skills and behavior training as well, while sheltered employment might not provide training that would allow for more independence.
Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program that helps people with disabilities find and maintain employment and enhance their independence. In addition to the general customer employment program, VR has additional specific programs designed to help eligible people with disabilities become employed.
Job Accommodation Network The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.
Social Security Red Book Summary Guide to Employment Supports for Persons With Disabilities under the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Programs
Whether you and your family decide that you will continue to live at home or move into the community is determined in large part by your desire and ability to manage everyday tasks. Some options are listed below.
Supervised Group Home
A supervised group home usually serves several people with disabilities. These homes are typically located in average family houses in residential neighborhoods. Trained professionals assist each resident based on individual needs. The residents usually have jobs away from home during the day.
A supervised apartment might be suitable for those who prefer to live with fewer people, but still require some supervision and assistance. There is usually no daily supervision in this setting, but someone comes by several times a week. The residents are responsible for getting to work, preparing meals, and meeting personal care and housekeeping needs. A supervised apartment is a good step in transitioning to independent life.
Independent living means just that – people live in their own apartments or houses and require little, if any, support services from outside agencies. Services might be present, but limited to helping with complex problem-solving issues rather than day-to-day living skills. For instance, some people might need assistance managing money or handling government bureaucracy. Coworkers, friends, local business employees or other community members could be integrated into a support system, whether informally through social interaction or as part of a more organized effort. Many people think of adulthood in terms of getting a job and living in a particular area, but having friends and a sense of belonging in a community is also important. People with ASD may need assistance in encouraging friendships and structuring time for special interests. Many of the support systems developed in the early years may be of continued use, as they can provide consistency and a framework for expansion.
RESOURCE LINK: Florida Association of Centers for Independent Living: CIL's are community-based, consumer-driven, non-profit organizations whose mission is to provide services, supports and information to persons with disabilities so they can live independently and achieve their personal, professional and educational goals.
For people who rely on public transportation, the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA requires public transit systems be “accessible” to individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires public transit entities, which provide fixed-route bus or rail services, also provide “complementary paratransit” services to individuals with disabilities who cannot, because of their disability, access the fixed-route system. People with disabilities must apply and be determined eligible for ADA paratransit services. The eligibility determination process for ADA complementary paratransit is developed by the transit system in consultation with the local community.
For more information click the link to access Disability Rights Florida.
Self-advocacy involves making and expressing your own life decisions and choices. It refers to an individual’s ability to effectively communicate, convey, negotiate, or assert his or her own interests, desires, needs, and rights. Self-Advocacy: Know Yourself, Know What You Need, Know How to Get It
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. We work to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us! For more info visit site.
REGISTERING TO VOTE
If you're interested in registering to vote it's very important to understand the process and its purpose, learn about candidates in local, state and national level elections, and vote either at polling places or remotely via US Mail. For more information about voting rights and responsibilities click this link for Disability Rights Florida:
Disability Rights Florida Voting Hotline: 1-800-342-0823, extension 6000.
Information and Technical assistance on the AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT