Please join us this Thursday, January 26, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Seattle Children’s Hospital for our free quarterly lecture, Autism 101. Autism 101 is intended for parents and families of children recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In this free lecture, participants will learn about:
- Up-to-date, evidence-based information regarding the core deficits of ASD
- Variability and presentation of behaviors associated with autism
- Prevalence and etiology (study of the cause of the disorder)
- Treatments available
- Resources for families
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Highlights from Beautiful Minds Wasted, The Economist
Thanks to my colleague, Jennifer Mannheim, ARNP , for passing along a recent article on autism and employment (The Economist, April 16, 2016 Beautiful Minds Wasted). As more and more children with autism become young adults, it offers a look at what happens after educational services end.
This article provides a global glimpse at the state of employment for those on the spectrum and is chock-full of sobering statistics:
- In 1970, 1 in 14, 000 children in the US were diagnosed with an ASD.
- In 2016, 1 in 68 children in the US were diagnosed with an ASD.
- In France, 90% of children with an ASD attend primary school but only 1% makes it to high school.
- In the US, less than 50% of students with an ASD graduate from high school.
- In the UK, 60% of teachers said they were unprepared to teach children with an ASD.
- In the UK, 12% of adults with HFA are employed and 2% of adults with “more challenging forms of ASD”.
- Globally, per the UN, 80% of adults on the spectrum are unemployed.
- In the US, 19% of adults with an ASD in their early 20s live independently away from their parents.
- 1 in 4 adults with an ASD report feeling isolated (have not seen friends or received a social invitation in the past year).
The article identified some of the employment challenges for those on the spectrum, including difficulty with the social aspects of the interview process, the often over stimulating work environment and adapting to changes in schedules and routines. On the other hand, strengths of some on the spectrum include intense focus and an eye for detail, enjoyment of repetitive tasks, dependability in following rules and routines.
Also mentioned were employers throughout the world who have made efforts to assist employees with an ASD to be successful including Specialisterne, A Danish firm that offers training and help finding jobs, Kaien in Japan, AQA in Israel, Passwerk in Belgium, and Walgreens in the US.
The Economist cites lifetime cost of unemployment associated with an ASD (lifelong care, lack of output by such individuals and un/under employment by families who care for those who do not work) is cited as between 1.4-2.4 million dollars.
Depressing? Yes. Surprising? No. The world is still not capably or comprehensively providing services and supports for children with an ASD and their families. It is only beginning to see the massive wave of children now coming of age into adulthood. Our kids are not ready for the real world and the real world is not ready for them.
Scientists tell us that our genes play a big role in our temperament – whether we are naturally positive or negative, high-strung or low-key. Does that mean, however, that we have no control over how we feel or on our outlook on life?
We all know people who seem to enjoy being miserable. They find fault with everything and everyone, feel victimized by life, and seem to not experience any happiness. We also know people who seem to bounce from one happy moment to the next, always looking at the bright side, and spreading joy wherever they go. Most of us are somewhere in the middle as we navigate life’s ups and downs. Is it possible to shift the scale to more happiness and less dissatisfaction? YES! As with anything, it takes practice. What could be easier though, then practicing being happy?
Practice Being Happy
- Hang out with happy people. We may not get to choose our family but we can choose our friends and acquaintances. If a relationship is not mutual, if it is dragging you down, consider pruning your friendship tree.
- Show thanks. This is one of the easiest things to do and the return on investment is incalculable.
- Look for purpose. Ask yourself, “what is my purpose in life?” and you’re likely to find reason to be happy. Perhaps it is to be the best mom you can be or to serve others or make lives easier/better in some small but significant ways.
- Look for meaning. When things go wrong, as they do, find meaning. Don’t dig too deep! It may be as simple as a lesson learned or another step in resilience.
- Live in the moment. Make an effort to let go of yesterday and not worry about tomorrow. All that you have any control over is what is right in front of you today.