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Figuring out the Future: Servicing Adults with Autism and Aging Parents

written by: Stephanie Torreno • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 10/5/2010

From the time a child is diagnosed with autism, parents often worry about their child’s future. These worries include what their child’s life will be like and who will help care for him or her as parents grow older. Learn about available services for adults with autism and aging parents.

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    Adults with Autism and Aging Parents

    Adults with autism face many challenges in living and working. While some adults with high-functioning autism are able to work and live independently or semi-independently, others with severe autism will require much more support. Whatever the degree of disability, communication and social problems will likely cause ongoing difficulties in life. For families dealing with these difficulties, services for adults with autism do exist to help.

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    Living Arrangements for Adults with Autism

    Some families choose to have an adult child with autism live at home as long as possible. Government assistance is available in many of these situations and can include Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicaid waivers, and others. For adults with autism and aging parents living together, a provider can come to the home and assist in daily activities if parents need help.

    If an adult with autism is unable to live totally independently, he may live semi-independently in a home or an apartment with assistance. Services for adults with autism include help with personal finances or advocating for services from agencies that serve people with disabilities. Family members, a professional agency, or another type of provider can give this assistance.

    People with disabilities often live in group homes or apartments. These homes employ staff that helps with residents’ daily needs, such as cooking, cleaning, and personal care needs. For people who have more complex support needs, long-term care institutions are still available. While these facilities differ from past institutions and treat residents as individuals who need simple work and recreational activities, other community options should be explored first.

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    Vocational Options for Adults with Autism

    Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services are available to people with disabilities in every state. VR services for adults with autism assist in meeting employment goals and can include vocational counseling, evaluations, career planning, and work and personal adjustment training. Clients can receive assistance in funding education, job training, and adaptive equipment to reduce limitations related to employment. Supported employment, job placement, and follow-up services are also available.

    Day training programs and sheltered workshop provide services that assist adults with autism in developing skills to promote personal, social, educational, and prevocational functioning. In day training programs, clients perform work for monetary or verbal reinforcement, or other rewards meaningful to the individual. The ratio of staff to workers is low to allow learning of basic skills. Sheltered workshops generally provide sub-minimum employment in a controlled environment with goals to help adults with autism progress toward more independent work and life.

    Day habilitation is another option for an adult with autism to increase independence and integration away from the home. Activities can take place in community settings and can focus on daily living skills, money skills, shopping, social skills, and traffic safety. These services may be provided to individuals or to small groups.

    For adults with autism and aging parents, early planning is necessary to choose living arrangements and employment options suitable to individual needs. Families should talk to other families dealing with autism and seek resources and support available in their community. If few options exist, parents should advocate for more support for their adult children with autism.