When we talk about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we’re often talking about how to help children facing the challenges that come with it. Children grow up, and if you’ve got a child with ASD you’ve probably thought a lot about your child’s future and how it will be different from the future of his or her neurotypical peers. ASD is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that exists in people of all ages. So, what happens to adults with ASD?
Some adults struggle after leaving high school. About forty percent of adults with ASD don’t find a job in their early 20s, and some struggle with social interaction. Body language can be difficult to read, and people with ASD often have trouble understanding social interactions or making eye contact.
On the other hand, many adults with autism spectrum disorder do quite well. Nicole Appel, for instance, is a successful artist with an enviable waitlist of collectors. She works part time at LAND Studio and Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, an exhibition space and studio for artists with developmental disabilities. “I enjoy making [drawings] and giving them. Both,” she says. “Giving people drawings makes them happy; making people happy makes me happy.”
Alexis Wineman, another successful adult with ASD, is the first woman with autism spectrum disorder to participate in the Miss America competition. She was diagnosed in middle school and says, “Prior to being diagnosed with autism, neither I nor my family had an explanation for my meltdowns and other issues. After the diagnosis, it was incredible how my siblings reacted. They were superheroes. They took me everywhere and pushed me into activities. They helped me with homework. It was just amazing how they sprang into action after years of not knowing what was going on.”
Familial support seems to be an important factor in the success of people with ASD. People without a strong support system can feel marginalized and have trouble thriving. As society becomes more accepting of people with ASD, embracing their differences instead of treating them as disabled, it becomes easier for those individuals to find their way in the world. Says Brooks Wolfner, a young man with ASD who works as a food services technician in a hospital, “I am aware that I have a disability, that I am different and that there are limitations to that. But I think being different is a good thing. If everyone were the same, it would be boring. It’s easier to accept and embrace who you are than to try to change. It’s easier to be happy."
If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, The Stepping Stones Group is here to offer support, keeping you informed of opportunities and providing important support services.