Grown Ups Too
First of all, yeeccch, I feel dirty for making even an oblique reference to that movie. Better go watch The Mist or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to wash that taste away. Or swallow a live eel, that might take my mind off it. (And be more enjoyable than watching Grown Ups 2)
Anyway, in a recent article I said that many people treat autism like polio. (Speaking of polio, for the first time in recorded history, only 1 case of wild poliovirus has been reported in Africa in the last 4 months, as of writing this) At the time, I was talking about targeting it for eradication, but there’s another striking parallel; both are regarded as disease of children. (For the record, I think I’ve made it abundantly clear by this point that I don’t see autism as a disease)
When the word “autism” is mentioned, I’d bet half my Gamera the Flying Tortoise collection that the stereotypical image that comes to mind for most people is of a male child throwing a tantrum. This is because the overwhelming focus of the medical community is on early intervention; diagnosing autism as early as possible and supporting children through special needs programs. (And because diagnosis, though not necessarily autism itself, is more common in boys)
Now, I’m not against early intervention. Kids on the spectrum often need specialized support to cope with the challenges that can come with autism. The problem is that once they finish high school, the support system jumps ship faster than the Great Myspace to Facebook Exodus of 2008, and they’re left to fend for themselves.
Furthermore, there are many adults on the spectrum who were never diagnosed as kids because autism simply wasn’t a “thing” back then; they were written off as badly behaved or undisciplined, and by the time they finally received a diagnosis (if they ever did at all) they were too old to benefit from the support programs in place for children.
This focus on autism in kids is so extreme that I’ve encountered a number of people who didn’t even realize autism occurs in adults. They thought it was exclusively a childhood phenomenon.
While there has been some encouraging improvement in recent years, there is still nowhere near enough support available for adults with autism. The same level of attention dedicated to getting kids on the spectrum through school needs to be applied to helping autistic adults live productive, healthy, and happy lives.
I’ve been very lucky in this regard, but many people I know haven’t had the opportunities or the assistance that I have.
Autism affects all races, nationalities, genders, and age brackets.