ASAT Responds to FoxPhilly.com’s "Parents Of Autistic Children Worry What Life Will Bring When They're Adults"
Monday, April 01, 2013
Your article, Parents Of Autistic Children Worry What Life Will Bring When They're Adults (February 6, 2013), highlights the enormity of fears and complications that many parents and caregivers of adults with autism face. Our country is currently being confronted with a mounting crisis due to lack of resources such as funding and qualified service providers for these individuals. While this epidemic is gaining ever increasing media attention, your story offers insight from the experience of families in the midst of this challenge and helps provide a "face" to this epidemic.
It may be beneficial for your readers to know that there are interventions that can be effective in increasing independent living skills for many individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities – namely, those included under applied behavior analysis (ABA), which has more empirical evidence to support its efficacy than other treatment approaches. Of course, as with any intervention, not all individuals may show a robust response to treatment. It is also important to point out that the earlier these services are begun, the better.
Of note, the comment that federally mandated services stop at age 21 is somewhat misleading. It is true that federal regulations require a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) - i.e., special education services - for all individuals with a qualifying disability between the ages of 3 and 21. However, there are also laws and regulations, which may vary from state to state, that are supposedly intended to protect and provide for services for adults who have certain developmental or mental health conditions. The problem often comes in the oversight of ensuring these regulations are followed, the availability of resources, and the rising number of individuals with such needs.
Thank you again for your attention to this tough issue that is a growing reality for many families today. Parents of young children with autism are often met with an overwhelming amount of information – much of which can be inaccurate or misleading – and mazes of providers and paperwork; however, parents of adults with autism often find themselves with a scarcity of support. While it is true that early interventions can help improve many symptoms of autism, there is still no cure, and many individuals continue to face significant challenges into adulthood. As a society, we have a responsibility to make sure these families have access to effective and scientifically valid services and support throughout their lifetime.
Laurie A Brophy, LCSW, BCBA and Elizabeth G. Dyer, MA, CCC-SLP
Association for Science in Autism Treatment