Autism Awareness Part 4
What happens to Autistic children when they grow up? They become Autistic Adults.
Once your child approaches adulthood, you will notice a gradual reduction of resources and available therapies. Finding specialist schools, private teachers, and therapists will become difficult because most professionals in the neurodivergence community are trained to work with children and not adults. This greatly affects over 30% of autistic people who will require support throughout their lifetime. This predicament presents itself worldwide. It almost suggests that by adulthood, your child’s autism should have disappeared.
Your autistic child in higher education will do well with an assigned guidance counsellor that understands their idiosyncrasies and can navigate them through their academic pursuits. Here in Nigeria, I await the first tertiary institution for neurodivergent persons to be established.
ESSENTIAL PREPARATION FOR ADULTHOOD
Just like neurotypical people, every autistic person craves their independence. Their independence must be on par with their physical and mental capabilities. Be deliberate about teaching self-care and independence.
Is your Autistic Adult ‘legally independent’?
If by the age of 16, you know that your child cannot be termed legally independent, depending upon the specifics of their capacity, you may need to apply to the Courts to be able to continue managing their welfare (i.e. Healthcare, education) and finances. In the United Kingdom, you would seek a lasting Power of Attorney or Welfare and, or Property & Financial Deputyship from the Court of Protection, a special court for adults with reduced capacity. Consider it a form of protection for young adults that cannot be held to the same legal standard and responsibility as a typical adult. Seek legal advice.
If your child, though an adult, is not a legally independent adult, it’s best to start to think about who and how your child will be cared for when you are too old to do the same or when you are dead.
Autistic adults often face social isolation and struggle to form meaningful relationships. Anxiety and depression often come in tandem, so it is important to be consistently deliberate about your child’s wellbeing. Inclusion, socialisation, and physical exercise regime are crucial. Create a tribe for your child.
Autistics Make Great Employees
Autistic adults possess unique skills and traits that facilitate aptitude and employability in certain industries. Autistic traits such as; attention to detail, excellent memory, strong problem-solving skills, persistence, ability to focus, integrity, dependability and dedication are just a few.
Nevertheless, many may struggle with work due to difficulties with social communication, sensory processing and excessive functioning.
Overall, autistic adults can bring unique skills and perspectives to the workplace, bringing valuable contributions to society through the industry.
Employers can help by providing clear instructions, accommodations for sensory sensitivities, opportunities for communication, and continuous feedback.
Coaching and mentorship at work are often very beneficial.
Autistic And Proud, by Miss Chiji Abili, Age 21
Recently, I came across an essay I wrote concerning autism some years ago. It was about how I learned to accept and love the fact that I’m autistic. My journey of autism acceptance was long and arduous but also a necessity.
I grew up exposed to the stigma the autism spectrum disorder has faced from its conception.
It was treated as an absolute joke at best; a disease at worst. In addition, stories of “people with autism” finding success in life were treated as a victory over autism— their success was in spite of their condition. In every respect, autism was only perceived as a derailing aspect of one’s identity. Even organisations dedicated to researching autism spectrum disorder often portrayed autism in a negative light, as something to be isolated and destroyed as one might do with a fungus. Seeing autism depicted in such a way caused me a great deal of stress: I relentlessly pursued academic success but did so out of fear that being autistic doomed me to failure as if the world were owed my intellect merely for being autistic. I was desperate to defeat autism in the same way the people in those “inspirational” stories did. Success stories were often intellectual, high-functioning, or the butt of the joke – see Mr. Bean. It only became clear to me recently that autistic people were only worthy of praise if of any capitalistic use to broader society.
It was through finding autism-friendly organisations and speaking with other autistic people that I finally found self-acceptance.
Organisations like the Autism Self-Advocacy Network had a different, more positive view of autism. I was able to hear fellow autistic people talk about their experiences without shame or indignation. They were proud of who they were and were truly happy. After hearing these stories, I concluded that it was the stigma surrounding autism, rather than autism itself, that caused me such grief.
With that, I started to accept and love myself.
Life as an autistic person is not without its struggles, but it’s also nothing to be ashamed of. Autism is not a destroyer of dreams. It’s not a disease in need of eradication. It’s a different and unique perception of the world. It’s something to be happy about. It’s something to accept and be proud of.