The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is nearly impossible to identify how many adults in the United States are on the autism spectrum. This is because the research and knowledge around autism has rapidly increased in recent years – giving the appearance that there are more children than adults with autism, however there is research to support that autistic adults suffer from health disparities at a higher rate than non-autistic adults.
According to Autism Speaks, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues. These characteristics – alone or combined – can hinder adults from securing jobs and maintaining employment.
According to a study released at the International Meeting for Autism Research, people with ASD are more likely to suffer from depression, high blood pressure, and obesity than people who do not have the disorder. Additionally, adults on the autism spectrum often have health issues associated with social isolation, such as alcohol use and smoking. Key results for autistic versus non-autistic adults include:
- Depression: 38 percent vs. 17 percent
- Suicide attempts: 1.6 percent vs. .3 percent
- High blood pressure: 27 percent vs. 19 percent
- Cholesterol problems: 26 percent vs. 18 percent
- Obesity: 27 percent vs. 16 percent
- Alcohol use: 23 percent vs. 53 percent
- Smoking: 16 percent vs. 30 percent
In addition to facing an increased occurrence for health disparities, adults with autism generally need some form of assistance, counseling and/or coaching with the following life skills:
- Establishing and maintaining personal and professional relationships
- Finding an appropriate living arrangement
- Learning and improving upon communication skills
- Seeking and maintaining employment
Exceptional Minds, a non-profit vocational center and animation studio for young adults on the autism spectrum, seeks to provide life skills resources to young autistic professionals. Exceptional Minds is committed to creating a world in which individuals on the autism spectrum are recognized for their talents and abilities. The vocational school provides young adults with customized instruction and hands-on experience to earn a living in the fields of multi-media, computer animation and post production. Next month, the school/job-training program will graduate its first nine students.
The Exceptional Minds program provides adults with ASD with life skills, real world experience and job training, but more importantly, gives students the “tools and confidence to achieve dreams” as illustrated in this video: http://exceptionalmindsstudio.org/index.html.
I am hopeful that as we continue to learn more about adults living with ASD, companies and organizations will follow Exceptional Minds’ lead in providing young autistic professionals with job opportunities and a meaningful work-life experience.
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