Living on the inside

It is nothing short of amazing to observe the transition to adulthood of a whole generation of young autistic teens. We have been advocating acceptance and inclusion for all people for the past twenty years, especially those with autism and other disabilities. As attitudes have shifted towards greater tolerance and support for people with autism, we have witnessed a transformation in society. There are now opportunities that have not existed as recently as five years ago in education, housing, and health care. Although job numbers are still lagging for autistic adults, there is optimism that things will continue to move in a positive direction.

Success always starts from within and manifests outwardly. People with autism would do well to work as they embark on a world of uncertainty to develop self-confidence and a positive self-image. Meeting other people’s expectations was the primary focus of growing up with autism. Conformity was not only expected for autistic children, although uncomfortable, but generously rewarded. Now on the adulthood portal, these same youth seem to lack their own identity. Despite the progress made in awareness and inclusion of autism, there is still an element of autism-related paternalism.

Autistic individuals need someone to care for them and make decisions on their behalf, the prevailing thought in many circles. While this may be true on the spectrum for some people, in every situation this is clearly not the case. The very thought of abdicating their freedom of choice is considered a personal affront to many autistic adults capable of living independently.

Forging an identity requires a definite action plan that focuses on achievement and positive images. The media, all formats, appear to have an obsession with autistic children’s “feel good” stories-yet it provides minimal coverage related to autistic adults. For both autistic children and adults on the spectrum, awareness-raising is extremely important. Positive images of autistic adults in the fields of education and employment are valuable for all members of society to eradicate some of the limiting beliefs that persist

In addition, we need to hear about the high-functioning end of the spectrum from adults living productive lives and being integral parts of communities around the world. In general, society needs to know that there are autism professionals working as educators, research scientists, business leaders, and accountants. Moreover, a more vocal presence from those with autism will go a long way in educating employers about the tremendous amount of talent that earnestly awaits a chance. Finally, to help galvanize an identity worthy of respect and dignity, there must be more self advocacy on the part of autistic adults.

George D. Williams is an author focused on the challenges facing the growing population of autistic adults. He recently launched Centurion Publishing Services, providing self – published authors with editing, book cover designs, and ghost writing.

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