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Although we most often hear about autism in children, it is important to emphasize that autism does not affect just kids. Autism is a lifelong condition which does not go away in adulthood. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism. But very often, as they grow up, they struggle to fit into society, find work and live on their own.

Adults with autism face major hardships in their lives, especially in the absence of supports and services. These challenges have significant implications not only for the individuals themselves but also for their families and society at large. The following are a few examples.

  • High unemployment – It is estimated that over 80 percent of Canadians with autism are unemployed. Moreover, research shows that young adults on the spectrum are more likely to be unemployed than their peers with other disabilities.
  • Social isolation – Facing a lack of understanding from the society, people living with autism and their families often become isolated and develop mental health problems.
  • Low life expectancy and high suicide rates – For people with autism in Sweden for example, life expectancy is a mere 40 years, and suicide rates are elevated. Research in the US shows that 66 percent of adults newly diagnosed with Asperger syndrome report to having contemplated suicide.
  • High dependence on families – Most often parents are the primary caretaker, educator, and financial supporter of their children with autism. But what is going to happen to these individuals once their parents are no longer able to care for them?
  • Unfulfilled potential – Given their unique capabilities in sciences and arts, people with autism can provide unique contributions in a number of areas. When left untapped, this unfulfilled potential represents a huge loss to the society.

These challenges and unmet needs are real and deserve the recognition and attention of everyone. How can we work together to help adults with autism have the best possible quality of life? It is critical to ensure that children with autism can successfully transition into adulthood, find a job, get involved in the community, find a place to live, and continue education.

To help families plan and prepare for their child’s transition to adulthood, Autism Edmonton is excited to offer Launch into Life! – a set of workshops designed to help families of youth with autism prepare for and respond to key life transitions and create an Individualized Transition Plan.

“Planning for the future can be hard to do not just because it’s hard to find time to do it, but also because thinking about the future can feel scary,” says Dr. Katelyn Lowe, the developer of the Launch Program at the Sinneave Family Foundation in Calgary.

The Launch Program began by helping families create individualized transition plans one family at a time. Over time, the program evolved into a group-based workshop format to allow families to come together to share their experiences, connect, and learn from each other.

“The transition planning process can begin at any age, but we recommend that families begin thinking about creating a plan for adulthood well before their child leaves high school. Starting early and having a shared vision for the future is key to creating a plan that works for everyone,” adds Dr. Lowe.

Transition planning helps individuals and their families make informed choices around future living arrangements, education and employment, finances, and community and social involvement. Each individual with autism is unique and transitioning may go smoothly or take longer and be more challenging depending on the person. But with support and careful planning, many individuals with autism can successfully prepare for adulthood.

“Shared vision is crucial in transition planning. It is important that you and your child are on the same page and participate in making decisions together, as much as possible,” comments Dr. Katelyn Lowe.

Launch into Life! workshops focus on discovering personal strengths and areas for growth based on an individual’s interests, abilities and needs. They provide valuable information about the following topics:

  • Understanding and preparing for key transitions across a person’s lifespan
  • Managing health and mental health issues related to ASD
  • Navigating change from pediatric to adult health and support care systems
  • Finding the right social and recreational programs in the community
  • Creating a shared vision for your child’s future
  • Developing life and vocational skills
  • Exploring volunteer and work opportunities
  • Understanding housing and supportive programming options in adulthood
  • Legal and financial issues, including guardianship and program funding

Join the Workshops

Launch into Life! consists of three workshops that will be offered on the following dates:

  • Monday, February 26, 2018, 7-9 p.m.
  • Monday, March 5, 2018, 7-9 p.m.
  • Monday, March 12, 2018, 7-9 p.m.

Location: Autism Edmonton (101, 11720 Kingsway Ave)

Cost: The admission fee for three days is $75. It includes refreshments and program materials. Subsidized tickets are available for those who require financial assistance.

Who should attend? Families and caregivers of youth living with ASD. Youth attendance is not mandatory, but welcome.

Don’t miss a chance to join these informative and hands-on workshops – register today! Please contact support@autismedmonton.org to secure your spot.