Autism: Living With It

Living With Autism Spectrum Disorder

After your child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you may feel unprepared or unable to provide your child with the necessary care and education. Know that there are many treatment options, social services and programs, and other resources that can help.

Some tips that can help you and your child are:

  • Keep a record of conversations, meetings with health care providers and teachers, and other sources of information. This will help you remember the different treatment options and decide which would help your child most.
  • Keep a record of the doctors' reports and your child's evaluation. This information may help your child qualify for special programs.
  • Contact your local health department or autism advocacy groups to learn about the special programs available in your state and local community.
  • Talk with your child's pediatrician, school system, or an autism support group to find an autism expert in your area who can help you develop an intervention plan and find other local resources.

Understanding teens with ASD

The teen years can be a time of stress and confusion for any growing child, including teenagers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

During the teenage years, adolescents become more aware of other people and their relationships with them. While most teenagers are concerned with acne, popularity, grades, and dates, teens with ASD may become painfully aware that they are different from their peers. For some, this awareness may encourage them to learn new behaviors and try to improve their social skills. For others, hurt feelings and problems connecting with others may lead to depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders. One way that some teens with ASD may express the tension and confusion that can occur during adolescence is through increased autistic or aggressive behavior. Teens with ASD will also need support to help them understand the physical changes and sexual maturation they experience during adolescence.

If your teen seems to have trouble coping, talk with his or her doctor about possible co-occurring mental disorders and what you can do. Behavioral therapies and medications often help.

Preparing for your child's transition to adulthood

The public schools' responsibility for providing services ends when a child with ASD reaches the age of 22. At that time, some families may struggle to find jobs to match their adult child's needs. If your family cannot continue caring for an adult child at home, you may need to look for other living arrangements. For more information, see the section, "Living arrangements for adults with ASD."

Long before your child finishes school, you should search for the best programs and facilities for young adults with ASD. If you know other parents of adults with ASD, ask them about the services available in your community. Local support and advocacy groups may be able to help you find programs and services that your child is eligible to receive as an adult.

Another important part of this transition is teaching youth with ASD to self-advocate. This means that they start to take on more responsibility for their education, employment, health care, and living arrangements. Adults with ASD or other disabilities must self-advocate for their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act at work, in higher education, in the community, and elsewhere.

Living arrangements for adults with ASD

There are many options for adults living with ASD. Helping your adult child choose the right one will largely depend on what is available in your state and local community, as well as your child's skills and symptoms. Below are some examples of living arrangements you may want to consider:

  • Independent living. Some adults with ASD are able to live on their own. Others can live in their own home or apartment if they get help dealing with major issues, such as managing personal finances, obtaining necessary health care, and interacting with government or social service agencies. Family members, professional agencies, or other types of providers can offer this assistance.
  • Living at home. Government funds are available for families who choose to have their adult child with ASD live at home. These programs include Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Medicaid waivers. Information about these programs and others is available from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Make an appointment with your local SSA office to find out which programs would be right for your adult child.
  • Other home alternatives. Some families open their homes to provide long-term care to adults with disabilities who are not related to them. If the home teaches self-care and housekeeping skills and arranges leisure activities, it is called a "skill-development" home.
  • Supervised group living. People with disabilities often live in group homes or apartments staffed by professionals who help with basic needs. These needs often include meal preparation, housekeeping, and personal care. People who are more independent may be able to live in a home or apartment where staff only visit a few times a week. Such residents generally prepare their own meals, go to work, and conduct other daily activities on their own.
  • Long-term care facilities. This alternative is available for those with ASD who need intensive, constant supervision.