Prepare Now: Teenagers With Autism Are Becoming Adults
According to statistics, an estimated 500,000 teenagers diagnosed with autism will become adults over the next 10 years. As the rate of diagnosis continues to climb (1 in 125 in 2004, 1 in 59 US births in 2018), preparations must be made, not only by families but by our communities as well.
Currently, nearly half of all 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job, and 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed. These numbers are not improving, and as more children and teenagers with autism enter adulthood, a new vision must be considered.
There is a push by those in the autism community and those in the business community to try and change these numbers, and it means education and supports. Businesses must be educated as to how to employ an individual with autism and must understand that autism is not the same for each individual who holds the diagnosis.
Wendy Dawson, Social Motion Skills Founder, and Executive Director stated, “Roles that require sorting products, performing data entry, or filing draw on unique strengths of autistic workers, who are usually extremely detail-oriented and procedure driven…Moreover, supervisors can count on them to show up on time and to be loyal employees.” Although this description may not fit all people with an autism diagnosis, it may be a good start to help businesses understand how to find the best job role for an individual with autism.
Small businesses with $1 million or less in gross revenue or 30 or fewer employees qualify for a tax write-off for making accommodations and hiring individuals that have a diagnosis/disability. This tax benefit can play a role for a small business owner as they make their hiring decisions.
It is also critical for individual families to plan for the support of their child/teenager/adult with autism. Even if work is an option for an individual with autism, it still may mean less than full time, which means additional financial support will be necessary and government benefits will still play a large role in the individual’s life.
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One benefit that comes from the government, and must be qualified for that can help an individual be successful on the job is called supportive employment. This means that the individual with autism is provided a 1-on-1 job coach that comes to work with them and provides on the job training so they can be successful. This is not only important for the adult with autism, but it can be the difference maker for an employer because now that employer does not have to take as much time to train this individual which means less hiring costs.
As families look to the future, it is critical to have the proper structure in place (legal, financial, tax, government benefits, services) so that a child with autism can be as successful as possible, and still have a safety net in place. As employers learn how to hire individuals with autism, there will still be a select group of jobs available, and as the adult population of those with autism rises, the jobs will become increasingly competitive to attain.
Having a plan for a child/teenager with autism to succeed in life will include working with him/her to help build all necessary skills, while at the same time building a plan that will provide the level of support needed if he/she is unable to find or sustain full-time employment.
For more information on how to prepare for the future, be sure to contact a financial advisor who specializes in serving families with special needs. A Special Needs Plan is driven by their purpose of leading families to independence through an on-going multi-generational plan. A Special Needs Plan is passionate about families confidently moving forward.
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This article was featured in Issue 85 – Top Strategies for Supporting your Family