While it is the public school’s responsibility to provide services until the person with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) reaches the age of 21, in some cases a person with an ASD will need full-time residential care for life. Many families ask, “What now?” Adults and families are largely left on their own to find secondary education, housing, recreation, health care, and employment opportunities to match the particular needs of their adult child, as well as programs and facilities that will support these goals. A nurturing environment at home, at school, and/or at work helps a person with an ASD continue to learn and develop throughout their lives.

Employment Options

Some adults with an ASD are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs. Many others are capable of employment in sheltered environments under the supervision of managers trained in working with persons with disabilities.

High-functioning adults are sometimes able to work successfully in mainstream competitive jobs, although they are frequently employed far below their actual level of skills and qualification. Some have found success in self-employment. Others may be best suited for careers that require focus on details but have limited social interaction with colleagues, such as computer sciences.

Supported employment allows individuals to receive payment for employment within the community, sometimes as part of a mobile crew, or in a job specifically developed for the person. In secure or sheltered employment, an individual is guaranteed a job in a facility-based setting. Individuals in secure settings generally also receive work skills and behavior training.

The Internet is often a good means of communication since it is almost devoid of the non-verbal cues that people with ASDs find hard to socially engage. To locate employment options, begin by contacting agencies that may be of help, such as state employment offices, social services offices, mental health departments, and disability-specific organizations.

Housing Options

Adults with an ASD may be capable of independent living: either entirely on their own or semi-independently in their own home or apartment with assistance in solving major problems. This assistance can be provided by family, a professional agency, or another type of provider. Some families choose to have their adult child live at home. Government funds are available to help with housing costs. These programs include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Medicaid waivers. Information about these programs can be found through the Social Security Administration (SSA) http://www.ssa.gov/.

Supervised group living is common among persons with disabilities. These homes are staffed by professionals who help residents with basic needs, including meal preparation, housekeeping, and personal care. Higher-functioning persons may be able to live in a home or apartment where staff visits a few times per week. Institutions, while not as common, remain an alternative and are available for persons with an ASD who need intensive and constant supervision.

Adult Diagnosis

Getting a diagnosis for an ASD as an adult is not easy. It can be hard to convince your doctor that a diagnosis is relevant and/or necessary. The typical route for seeking a diagnosis as an adult is to visit your doctor and ask for a referral to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. When bringing up the topic with your primary care doctor, make sure that the appointment is set only for this specific reason, as this is an issue that needs everyone’s full attention. Begin by explaining why an ASD is a concern. People with ASDs will be affected in some way in each of the three categories: social communication, social understanding and flexibility of thought. The spectrum is broad and two people with the condition may exhibit very different severities. Most will be affected within these three areas.

Diagnosis as an adult can lead to a variety of benefits. You can gain a better understanding of yourself. Many people have suffered from mental health problems and/or have been misdiagnosed as having mental health problems such as schizophrenia. A firm diagnosis can be a relief because it allows you to learn about your condition and understand where and why you have difficulties for the first time. Others will also gain a better understanding as it will be easier for them to empathize with your position once they learn there is a reason for your difficulties. It is also helpful to meet others within the community with ASDs by learning about their experiences and sharing your own.

Support is a good step in seeking treatment, relieving anxieties, and helping to maintain a healthier lifestyle while dealing with this disorder. The following links will be helpful to you as you look at the next phase of life for you and/or your child.

Educational Support

Medical/Psychological/Therapeutic Support

Community/Family Support

Guardianship / Conservatorship

  • MN Courts
  • Minnesota Association for Guardianship and Conservatorship (MAGIC)
  • Spence Legal Services
  • Search This Site

    Make a Donation

    Sign Up for Autism Allies Updates

    • HTML
    • Text