When it comes to topics related to autism, the focus is almost always on kids. As the mother of an 11-year-old girl with autism, I know how easy it can be to deep dive into topics such as IEPs (individualized education program), playdates, fine motor skills, sensory issues and even things like toilet training and puberty. But what no one talks about is that someday, sooner than we think, our kids with autism will become adults with autism, and from there the level of interest and support takes a dramatic plunge.
According to Autism Speaks, studies show that 50 to 75 percent of the roughly 5.6 million autistic adults in the U.S. are underemployed or unemployed and nearly half of 25 year olds with autism have never held a paying job. Those are sad statistics for our kiddos that we put so much hope and work into when they are young.
While we don’t know what the future holds for our daughter in terms of her education and possible career, I do know that it’s imperative that as a society we start to look at people with autism as assets. But with all the talk and training on diversity and inclusion, those with developmental disabilities including autism are left out of the conversation. While companies put an inordinate amount of focus on the labels of bathrooms and the pronouns in an email signature, more than 60 percent of young adults with autism are neither working or pursuing education or training post-high school in the U.S.
The thought of E sitting at home all day when she graduates high school or being shuttled to a day program to complete busywork is not OK! Our public schools need to step up their efforts when it comes to pre-college readiness for our kids and also put the focus on vocational training as early as middle school. The result of not doing this will be a generation of children who were shuttled to endless therapy sessions doing…nothing.