Aging Out and Autistic: A Growing Problem in Illinois
April 25, 2011
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Just about everyone knows someone with autism theautismprogram.orgthese days. That may be because, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one million Americans have some sort of autism spectrum disorder; most of them are children. Out of every 110 new babies, one will eventually be diagnosed with the disability, and the number is rising by more than 10 percent a year. Becky Moore, from Springfield, Illinois, has a son with autism, and she says when he graduates from high school, he will join a huge wave of people with very few options for living on their own.
"Five-hundred-thousand children will transition out of the system after age 22 in the next 15 years and the question is, what will they transition to?"
Students with developmental disabilities can stay in high school until age 22, but after that they're on their own. Moore says housing, job coaching and educational programs are scarce in Illinois, and so are resources.
"In a lot of communities there is nothing for them to go to, and so it's a great question, concern, a great stress for parents across the nation."
Moore says people who don't understand the disorder may mistakenly believe that autistic people can't live independently, but she knows from experience that many children with autism exceed expectations.
"It's so joyful, the first time you hear them say, 'I love you, Mom,' or the first time they read a book, or the first time they do whatever, that you didn't think they'd be able to do."
Moore says her son works very hard at everything he accomplishes and he deserves a future that involves meaningful work, and a social life. She says she's met with state officials who acknowledge that transitioning to adulthood with autism is a problem, but they also tell her that there's no money for new programs. That's why she's working with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois in reaching out to United Cerebral Palsy and the Autism Society of Central Illinois. They're trying to find ways to organize housing, and help young adults with autism to learn independent living skills.
For more information go to lssi.org, or
theautismprogram.org, or autismillinois.org