Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder being a lifelong condition comes with its own set of highs and lows, positives and challenges. As one grows the line of treatment and support required changes as well. As with neurotypical people, individuals on the spectrum go through major life changes. Their quality of life is dependent not only on the foundation laid in childhood, but the various supports extended to meet their unique educational, medical, social, recreational, family and employment requirements. In this blog, we look at the 3 stages in life and what it entails for a person with ASD.
Infants and toddlers - 0 to 3 years are very important in the overall development of a person. Youngsters make periodic visits to their pediatrician at this stage for check-ups, vaccinations, and general developmental screenings. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that the 18 months to 2-year check-ups should include developmental screening for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) for everyone. If symptoms are manifested and/or the child has a sibling with ASD, further screenings ought to be carried out. Without early detection and intervention, the symptoms can deepen, and treatment & therapy expensive over time. Professionals and family members after exhaustive consultation can chalk out a dynamic and personalized therapy program for each infant / toddler based on their unique needs and symptoms.
School age - The formative years bring many challenges as well as opportunities for children and their families. For parents, the main cause of concern is to find good resources to create paths of learning, various skill sets, and health that will hold the child in good stead over the years. A specialist or care agency to guide and hand hold the child and family reduce the stress of the family and provide growth opportunities for the child. There are a range of therapies and treatments available such as ABA, occupational and speech therapy. Various educational programs that provide stimulating learning environments to a child on the spectrum are available to choose from.
Adulthood -- Transitioning from youth to adulthood is a difficult one for everyone let alone with ASD. It includes the choice of housing be it independent living, a supervised apartment or group home, or live with family based on each person's skills and abilities. In most cases, a supported living arrangement is a start and over time independent living can be worked out. Second, driving is a skill that can be nurtured but keeping safety first. It is a decision people on the spectrum make as a part of the journey to adulthood, in consultation with loved ones and professionals. Third, Transition to adulthood also means acquiring skills to get and retain suitable employment. Parents can help by getting them summer jobs or part time jobs while they still in school to help in this matter. The right career or job leverages the person’s strengths and abilities. Good resources for jobs include state employment agencies, vocational rehabilitation departments, social services centers, mental health departments, and disability-specific non-profits. Last, Development of social skills from childhood prepares them to hold meaningful relationships with loved ones, colleagues, neighbors, and friends. With the
negotiation of the tight ropes of relationships, social cues, and personal boundaries, people with ASD can go on to form bonds & associations that test the sands of time. Adulthood is the richest period in a person's life which enables them to live life based on skills & talents acquired for a fulfilling and independent (or semi - independent) life as productive citizens.