Autism Awareness: Time To Focus On The Future
By Mary Kuhlman, Indiana News Service
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – As many in Indiana show their support on World Autism Awareness Day, some say more needs to be done to improve the lives of people who are affected by autism.
Dana Renay, chief executive ally for the Autism Society of Indiana, said the state has done a good job providing early-intervention opportunities that are extremely beneficial. She added, however, that the focus needs to change, to include helping those with autism as they become adults and want to enter the workforce.
“We need to be able to position them in a way that we can leverage the skills that emerge from their autism in a way that they can get into the field that they are going to be best suited for,” she said.
According to new statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 people is diagnosed with the disorder, a 30 percent increase in two years. Since more people with autism will be entering college and the job market in the coming years, Renay said, there should be greater emphasis on job training and services to help support those transitions.
Renay said a persistent stigma faced by people with autism is that others assume they are difficult to work with. However, with the right supports to meet their individual needs, she said meaningful employment is possible.
“If we can work with these individuals and be proactive in identifying what their skills are, and then identifying where their gaps are – and we can work on those skills, then we can educate their employer at the same time,” she said. “They’re going to be better set up for success.”
Accommodations don’t necessarily mean more cost for employers, she said. They often are as simple as visual supports, a consistent routine or short, frequent breaks for a worker with autism.
April is Autism Awareness Month, and events will be held around the state to build support for people and families living the disorder.
More information is available at INautism.org.