Today marks the fifth World Autism Awareness Day. The goal and hope of this day is to bring worldwide awareness to autism and the challenges faced by those on the autism spectrum and their families, as well as to promote creating and sharing good programs to assist those on the autism spectrum in all nations. This year’s message from Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the UN, highlights the importance of not only early diagnosis and intervention, but also the development of lifelong support to assist autistics in realizing and achieving their full potential.
Many people and organizations focus on autistic children and providing them with as much help as possible, but they seem to forget that one day those autistic children will become autistic adults. The lack of assistance for autistic adults is a well-known and frustrating issue in the United States and other parts of the world. As one of those adults who could benefit from some assistance, I can attest to the frustration caused by hearing about how important early intervention and childhood therapies are for people on the autism spectrum, yet hear little or nothing about the needs of autistic adults.
It is important to remember that while early intervention is important to help autistic children be as successful as possible, autism is not a childhood disorder. It doesn’t suddenly disappear after high school graduation. The symptoms may improve with age, but they may also get worse or manifest in a different manner. If a person is autistic as a child, they remain autistic as an adult.
The needs of autistics change as they get older, but the strong support systems and assistance programs from childhood may not be available any longer or be able to meet the needs of an autistic adult. Many autistics who were undiagnosed before adulthood are unable to get any assistance at all.
World Autism Awareness Day is designed to help bring all of these issues and more to the attention of the public worldwide. The first step to finding a solution for the lack of support for adults on the autism spectrum is to raise awareness so that people understand just how dire a need is not being met. With enough people pushing governments to create or revamp programs to assist autistic adults, or even banding together to create such programs, the problem can be solved. It will take time and effort and public support, but I have no doubt that one day adult autistics will be able to receive the much needed assistance and support currently only available to children.
If you would like to help raise awareness of this issue, please contact your government representatives. In the United States, that would be you state senator and representative, as well as your senators and representative in Washington. You can call them, send an email, or write them a letter to let them know you’re concerned about the lack of assistance for autistic adults.
The Autism Society of America has a list of ways you can get involved on their website.
I hope you’ll help World Autism Awareness Day achieve its goal of raising awareness of autism and the needs of autistics, not only today, but every day. Autism is something millions of people live with each and every day, myself included.