Children with Special Needs Become Adults
Adults with disabilities remind other adults that life is unpredictable, even cruelly absurd. Many disabilities appear as adulthood begins. Schizophrenia is one mental health condition that often appears after the age of 18, for example. Physical challenges, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's also appear in adulthood. Disabled adults are a reminder that no one is impervious to life's risks. Life itself is always terminal.
Children with autism now receive more supports than ever before, but many autistic adults feel invisible. Autistic adults face high unemployment (only 17 percent find appropriate employment, according to a U.K. study), social isolation, and, often, a number of potential coexisting conditions. Many of the autistic adults I've met also deal with seizure disorders, social anxiety, sensory integration issues, and learning challenges.
Because autism can affect social skills and executive functions, adults with ASDs often fail to seek the services and medical care they desperately need. Adults with special needs often need minor, but essential, guidance to obtain services and supports. Organizations serving adults have difficulty explaining these unique needs.
Raising money to fund adult services is not easy. A few parents have told me, bluntly (and wrongly), that it is "too late" to help many adults with special needs. I refuse to believe that. Plus, these parents need to consider the likelihood that their sons and daughters are not going to be "cured" magically before adulthood. A child with special needs is going to be an adult with at least some unique needs.
Thankfully, most parents do realize they need to plan for their child's future. Parents of adults with disabilities are emerging as vocal advocates for the disabled, paving the way for those with young children and teens. Only a few decades ago, autistic adults, those with Down syndrome, and many others were "hidden away" in "care facilities" that offered anything but care.
If you are interested in supporting adults and their efforts to become fully integrated members of our communities, please consider The Arc Foundation or its regional chapters: