New Support Program Keeps Adults with ASD Happy
We are in an age where we’re constantly hearing “it’s all about me” and “look out for #1 because no one else will!” When you are able to take care of your own needs, all of society benefits. Unfortunately, a major portion of our society is unable to be 100% independent. Many of these people fall through the cracks in our system, and if it were not for the volunteers—the true philanthropists—they would be flooding our streets, wandering aimlessly without any direction or quality of life. A surprisingly large percentage of middle-aged adults are autistic. According to a National Autistic Society survey of over 450 children and adults with autism, “an astonishing 70% of adults with autism are unable to live independently. Of these individuals, 49% live with family members, creating a huge financial burden on their aging parents, and 32% live in residential care facilities, which offer little or no privacy, autonomy, or stimulation.”
Some are diagnosed, but most are not. They’re being cared for by their parents, an elderly, dwindling generation. What is a somewhat, but not fully, functional person to do? What will happen when they lose the parents who’ve been caring for them? The National Autistic Society also states that only 3% of adults with autism live entirely independent lives. If we don’t prepare to assist this sizable and growing portion of our society, we’ll be in serious trouble. These people are NOT incompetent. From the most challenged to the brightest, adults with autism can provide a positive wave of change that this country so desperately needs.
The Solution: Partnering
A program called “Partnering” has been created. This is to assure that adults with autism who have lost their elderly, care-giving parent do not become institutionalized. We can help get them back on track by connecting them with another adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that can fill in the gaps. Together, along with our guidance, by partnering them with a productive counterpart, they can maintain the lifestyle in which they were accustomed. Yes, there will be some growing pains, and in the beginning they will need home visits to make sure the partners are doing well together. Once they get some time together and their transition smoothes out, they will need less home visits, hence less services.
For example, take Adult A, who has become homeless after he fled from a state-run facility that he has lived in since his father died. He has a small income, is great at math, and he can cook, but he does not drive. Adult B can drive and has a job to help pay the bills, but without someone to help with rent, he will lose his home since his aunt, who cared for him since he was a child, died. Together, Adult A and B can maintain the home Adult B has lived in. Adult A will make sure the bills are paid on time, sets up a budget, and cooks their meals. Adult B continues working and has the security in knowing he is not losing his home and has a companion that has his back! They both flourish, feeling secure and independent without the fear of being institutionalized!
This is one example of how partnering works. I realized when my children were in school that many of the students had negative issues that took away from the joys of learning. When the class bully was getting out of control, I asked if I could try an experiment. I found out that the boy who was doing the bullying was being called “dumb,” “stupid,” and other names by his classmates. That only created anger, often leading to him to beat some of the other students up. Mostly, the bully picked on the young man who was called the class pet. I took the bully and the class pet aside and had a meeting with them. I gave them a challenge. I asked the class pet to tutor the bully. I promised if they could do this after school for a couple of hours a day for one month, I would take them both to Disneyland. At the end of the month was the state testing. The bully got a score that was 75% higher than the one he took the year before. He was so proud of himself, and soon, he and the class pet were close friends. To this day, I still receive Christmas cards from the two of them. They live three blocks from one another and their families are the best of friends to this day!
Since my little experiment worked so well, I put it to the test for everyone. I have proven that when people have happy, healthy relationships in their lives, they have a balanced life, no matter what their issues are. Personally, I now have some really happy and healthy relationships for the first time, and my life has dramatically improved. It is my friends and close colleagues that get me through the tough times and help me figure out the next move when something challenging comes up, not the services from regional centers or sub-par services from vendors! When we come together as a close-knit group, to support one of our own, that is when true miracles happen.
Example: It is not the government that will rescue Joe, a 47-year-old man with autism, when his long-time caregiver and mother passes away. It is the people in Joe’s life that will save him. If Joe has a close circle of his own people, they will come together with a plan of action to help Joe. They will love and care for him enough to do this. We can keep this demographic from ending up impoverished or homeless by having successful programs that teach and support our special needs individuals in order to create their own healthy relationships.
By teaching our more challenged individuals how to maintain healthy relationships, it keeps them from being isolated. Anyone who has their own circle to go to in good times and bad are more apt to happy. Happy people need fewer services, eat healthier, experience a balanced life, and live longer. We are coming up with innovative ways to employ those with ASD. We have learned that just because we are different doesn’t mean we are not brilliant, forward thinking people, because so many of us are. Everyone has something to offer; from the brightest to the most challenged, we can all be a hero! ASDS, Autism Spectrum Disorder Supports, is all about that. Relationships Are Us is a part of ASDS and will be launching this fall.
Relationships Are Us is teaching how to interact with a counterpart through role-play, sex education, and socialization through means of mixers, happy hours, and meet ups. Relationships Are Us is here to facilitate any relationship a person needs in order to have a balanced life. We specialize with our Special Needs clients, but we are not exclusive to them only.
When elderly parents confide in me about their fear of what will happen to their adult child when they pass away, I always suggest being a part of that plan now. RelationshipsAreUs.com has the answers for them as well. We help to create a group for the parents that will pre-plan for when they are no longer able to care for their adult child, saving much worry and heartache for them now! You can never be prepared for everything, but for this, you can be ready with the support from all of us at ASDS!
This article was featured in Issue 53 – Working Toward The Future