Autism & Adults
ASD affects more males than females and it is estimated that one person in every hundred has ASD. Many more individuals are now receiving diagnosis in their adult life. There is no known cure, but with appropriate education and support people with ASD can be helped to live their lives with as much dignity and independence as possible.
Many people with ASD have written about their experiences; some people who have been diagnosed find it helpful to read these experiences as it helps them to feel that they are not alone. A list of these accounts is available from Autism NI. The quotation below is from a book written by a young man called Marc Segal explaining how he felt. His book “Coping a Survival Guide” has been helpful to many young people with Asperger's Syndrome.
“As far back as I can remember I had intricate thoughts and ideas which have made me unique. As a young child in early primary school I used to spend most of my time just doing my own thing and not really making much sense to people. My ever intriguing thoughts and ideas were locked up in my head and I couldn’t communicate them with others”
Adults with Autism who have an accompanying Learning Disability normally have access (from age 19 on leaving Special Education Provision) to Day Care provision in an Adult Training Centre (ATC) or Day Care Centre provided by the local Health & Social Care Trust or funded voluntary agency provider. Activities are Social & Life Skills based and may include some work based experience.
The alternatives are supported employment although access is limited due to under funding for Autism services and consequent under funding of this sector. Further information can be accessed via USEL (Ulster Supported Employment Ltd) or NIUSE (Northern Ireland Union of Supported Employment). Autism NI has worked with two Belfast based providers (Orchardville and NOW) who have positively developed expertise in supporting individuals from across the entire Autism Spectrum.
Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome/High Functioning Autism have only been identified recently in Northern Ireland as a unique group of individuals who rarely have had access to a comprehensive diagnosis and rapid intervention programme. Consequently this section of the population has received minimal support and negligible understanding – with often tragic consequences to individuals and families. Many of these individuals (Marc Segal, Temple Grandin, Wendy Lawson, Donna Williams, and Ros Blackburn) have become advocates for those who are unable to articulate their condition clearly. The common experiences of childhood bullying, teenage isolation and adult acute anxiety & depression can tip the scales into tragedy if appropriate and effective ongoing support and intervention is not available rapidly to break this cycle of exclusion from society.
The lack of expertise and effective intervention in the Mental Health and Criminal Justice System means that a number of individuals with Autism are in crisis. It is illuminating to hear statistics from Juvenile Justice which indicate that 20% of the population have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is challenging to know that lives can be turned around with improved access to counselling, coaching and social and life skills training support within an Autism friendly ethos.
Autism NI has worked in partnership with The Orchardville Society, NOW, Positive Futures, Challenge, Praxis and Action Mental Health in recent years to accelerate the debate on the specific provision required. Autism NI and Autism Initiatives UK/ASD Initiatives Ireland are engaged in an active partnership which has now established Autism Initiatives as the largest provider of support services to adults with Autism in Northern Ireland.
Autism NI also provides a range of awareness and specialist training opportunities for professionals and carers. Please check out our Training section.