The face of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often one of a child’s. But, as a slew of government statistics, advocacy groups and high-profile newspaper articles have reminded us as of late, kids with ASD eventually become adults. In fact, 45,000 to 50,000 kids with ASD reach adulthood every year—and age out of the system of care that helped them through childhood, most likely provided by their school system.
“What are our next options?” Many parents and caregivers may ask themselves when their child comes of age. The responsibility often then shifts entirely to parents to find education or employment and living arrangements. While most typically-developing teenagers go on to college or work with relative ease, such a transition to adulthood for young adults with ASD and their families can be met with difficulties. Those issues include adjusting to daily life as an adult, education, psychiatric issues associated with ASD, finding strengths, managing finances, work and social skills.
Here at Penn, a new and developing program aims to begin to address that void in care. Led by Edward S. (“Ted”) Brodkin, MD, associate professor of Psychiatry, the Penn Behavioral Health’s Adult Autism Spectrum Program’s main goal is to help adolescents and adults with ASD and their families to optimize their well-being, daily function and the growth of their talents, skills and relationships.
“Most of today’s resources are focused on children, but there’s a large wave of people with ASD who are growing up to be adults who are going to need help—and there are very few services available to them now,” says Dr. Brodkin.