High Functioning Autism Can Lead to the Streets

By Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

1 in 88 children are born with some type of an autism spectrum disorder and 1 in 54 is boys. The children of today being born with autism spectrum disorders will be the future adults of tomorrow. So what will happen to these individuals?

Children with caring and supportive parents and family will get their proper diagnoses, get taken to their recommend therapies, follow through on all their treatment plans and grow up to become as productive as they can. Individuals with severe and moderate cases of autism will get the help they need whether they have a supportive set of family members or not, but those who have mild or high functioning autism many not always get all of their special needs met. If the person lacks supportive family members at some point in their lifetime they may end up on the street.

Many individuals with high functioning autism (commonly referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome) often look like their non-autistic peers which can cause them to get their special needs neglected. If the child is able to get passing grades, but lack friends the adults around them may not always notice that the child has a problem. The adults may assume that the child is shy or just enjoys being alone. Friendships are important because it helps a person build a relationship with another person and teaches a person that they are acceptable to someone outside of their bloodline. Having a friend teaches a person that they are not alone and that someone enjoys them for the unique person that they are.

Rejection can hurt at any age and may cause the person to depend on their parents and family for companionship and emotional support. If the person lacks a supportive family and close friends, the isolation and the pain of rejection can cause them to develop mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety problems. Once a person develops a mental illness they must enter a new set of treatment that they may not always follow through on. If a person has autism along with a mental illness this can cause them to be rejected even more because some people might view them as a burden or problem. If the person is unable to care for themselves properly they might end up on the street. In some cases a person may turn to various illegal and legal mood-altering substances for comfort. Alcohol and drug usage can lead to homelessness. 

In adulthood the person may not know how to verbally get past their job interviews or know how to communicate well enough with their co-workers or bosses to hold on to their jobs. The workforce is not always about what you know; many times it is a social experience. The person with autism is often direct and blunt with their words and they may interrupt a conversation between two people because they don’t understand non-verbal communication, which can cause others to view them as being rude or inconsiderate.

People with autism are emotionally sensitive and can take words literally or serious. They often express their emotions strongly. If an autistic person is feeling angry and explodes into a raging fit, they might find themselves in a court room or in jail or prison. If the person’s anger gets them a felonious assault charge, the person then has to live with a felony on their record. It is hard to find a job with a felony but if the person has autism too, that is two strikes against them. As we all know, if a person can’t get or keep a job chances are they will end up on the street.

If the autistic person is not diagnosed in childhood, chances are they won’t receive the help they need in order to function in the world properly. There are a lot of programs for children on the autism spectrum but not for adults, especially those over 25. There may become a point in a person’s life where their family gets tired of seeing them struggle and assumes that the struggling is their fault and put them out to fend for themselves. There may come a time in an autistic person’s life where their one close family member passes away and leaves them to fend for themselves. At some point in a person with high functioning autism’s life if they are left to deal with life alone, they might end up without a place to live.

If the homeless social service community was better educated on autism they might be able to better deal with the issues that individuals with autism face.  Are support groups such as AA and NA educated enough on autism to meet the needs of autistic individuals? Are family members and parents taking the time to get to know what is going on in their loved one’s life or are they unintentionally neglecting their loved one’s special needs? Will there be a safety net to catch those individuals on the autism spectrum if they fall or lack support in their life? This is something we all need to think about. Today’s children are our future leaders and many people on the autism spectrum have special talents and abilities, but may lack the social and communication skills or the support system that they need to thrive. 

To learn more about autism visit my autism awareness site: www.supermuttwalks.info  

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio