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Becoming Adults with Autism: 3 Strategies for Providing Support

Becoming Adults with Autism: 3 Strategies for Providing Support

What happens when a child with autism grows up?

When referring to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), most people associate it primarily with childhood. However, it is crucial to recognize that the natural course of life spans from childhood to adolescence and, subsequently, adulthood. Parents of teenagers with autism must understand that this disorder will continue to be an integral part of their children’s lives during adulthood, which prompts the question, “What happens when a child with autism grows up?”

It is important to emphasize that adults with autism can achieve significant goals, such as independence, obtaining employment, pursuing post-secondary education, or living autonomously. However, the goals of each family and individual are unique. 

It is essential to provide appropriate support during childhood and adolescence to ensure that neurodivergent individuals can reach these goals. In this blog from ABA Centers of Florida, we will explore how autism manifests throughout life and guide how parents can support their children’s transition to adulthood, underscoring the importance of continuous support for the development of adults with autism.

Understanding Autism Across the Lifespan

While medical providers can identify autism early in life, and its characteristics may pose significant challenges during childhood, it is crucial to recognize that individuals will hold an autism diagnosis throughout their lives. Although there are cases, albeit in the minority, in which some children with autism, through early interventions and appropriate support, manage to overcome the diagnostic requirements, it is essential to understand that autism has no definitive cure and situations in which individuals cease to meet autistic criteria are rare.

Each stage of life presents new challenges for everyone, and this is no exception for neurodiverse individuals. Therefore, exploring how autism affects individuals in childhood, adolescence, and, ultimately, adulthood is crucial to understanding their needs and providing the necessary support to enable them to make continuous developmental progress. This holistic approach helps us more effectively support each adult with autism by recognizing and addressing their specific challenges at each stage of life.

Children with Autism

Health professionals, psychologists, and parents can identify autism at early ages, as children often exhibit delays in development, language, motor skills, and certain characteristic behaviors of autism. Fortunately, early detection of autism brings significant benefits, as it enables access to therapies during a stage when children can acquire skills and coping mechanisms that, in the long run, enhance their developmental outcomes.

Addressing autism in early childhood allows for more efficient intervention, and therapists can modify behavioral differences with more positive results. Early intervention not only facilitates access to therapeutic resources but also lays the groundwork for a more practical approach that promotes optimal development in children with autism.

Teenagers with Autism

Adolescence is a stage of numerous changes, increased self-awareness, and the pursuit of independence, which can pose additional challenges for teenagers with autism. During this period, young individuals experience a growing need for belonging and forming friendships and relationships—elements that can be particularly challenging for neurodivergent individuals.

Autism in teenagers can influence their social interactions. For instance, for a teenager with autism, it can be incredibly frustrating and upsetting when things do not follow a set routine, or difficulties may arise in understanding physical boundaries. These challenges can adversely impact their relationships with school peers and community members, contributing to isolation and additional struggles in establishing meaningful connections with peers of their age or adults.

Adults with Autism

Adults with autism often face ongoing challenges in their social interactions and sensory processing. For instance, they may encounter difficulties in understanding the feelings and thoughts of others, as well as interpreting social cues and forming friendships. The communication style of individuals with autism tends to be direct and honest, which some people may perceive as rude or lacking in manners. Additionally, adults with autism may misinterpret sarcasm and exaggeration, as they tend to process expressions literally, complicating communication with individuals of their age.

Moreover, adults with autism typically tend towards rigidity and strict adherence to routines. This inclination can impact their willingness to experience new situations or explore different environments that provide opportunities to meet new people.

Additionally, adults with autism and their families face an additional challenge, as, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), individuals lose the services provided by this law upon turning 22 years old. The IDEA, a federal law, ensures that children with disabilities have the right to receive a free and appropriate public education tailored to meet their individual needs.

Supporting Your Child As They Become an Adult with Autism

  1. Early Preparation for Adulthood: While IDEA does not mandate a transition plan until the age of 16, initiating this process sooner can be highly advantageous. IDEA acknowledges the importance of equipping young people with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed beyond high school. To achieve this, the IDEA requires that transition planning for students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) who receive special education services should involve assessing their strengths, requirements, and abilities needed for them to transition smoothly from high school to post-secondary life.
  2. Involve Your Child in Daily Tasks: Teaching your child to perform daily tasks, such as household responsibilities, cooking, or grocery shopping, can be crucial for his development into adulthood. The sooner you start imparting these skills, the more time they will have to learn and perfect them.
  3. Provide Support with ABA Therapy: ABA therapy is the gold standard in autism care. This approach has been meticulously studied by experts for over four decades, demonstrating outstanding results in skill development, coping mechanism acquisition, fostering autonomy and independence, and managing challenging behaviors in children and adolescents with autism. Not only is it valuable for preparing children for school or transitioning to adulthood, but it also offers significant benefits for adults with autism, enhancing their social skills, communication abilities, vocational training, academic development, and more. ABA therapy is tailored to individual needs, contributing comprehensively to the progress and well-being of those who receive it.

ABA Centers of Florida: Supporting Children and Adults with Autism

We recognize that not all individuals on the spectrum are fortunate enough to receive an early diagnosis and intervention. Whether due to a lack of necessary resources, unawareness of autism signs, or other reasons, we believe that everyone on the spectrum deserves access to appropriate support. Therapy and support from their families and communities are essential, regardless of age.

ABA therapy is beneficial for all individuals with autism. While commonly used in children and teenagers, adults with autism can also find significant benefits. ABA therapy offers the advantage that therapists can tailor it to achieve specific goals in adults with autism, such as helping them understand how to behave in social situations, promoting flexibility in their daily routine, and understanding the reasons behind changes.

At ABA Centers of Florida, we specialize in helping neurodiverse families build a bright future, offering services from early intervention to in-home ABA therapy. Individuals in Doral, Miramar, Port Saint Lucie, Tampa, Orlando, Boca Raton, Melbourne, Davenport, Kissimmee, or Bradenton can access our services within days. To learn more about ABA therapy, call us at (772) 773-1975 or contact us online for a free consultation with our autism treatment professionals.

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