During this time of unprecedented change, we are granted the opportunity to reflect on times past and anticipate what lies ahead. We are reminded of the universal rhythm of life and the predictable pattern of light preceding darkness and death generating new life. Through it all, the only constant is the fact that change is constant and relentless all around us. Autumn is a beautiful time of year as the falling leaves and crisp air remind us of the impending arrival of winter. This is also a time of transition that features the cycle of life on full display. To only see decay and demise during the autumn season is tantamount to only seeing the trees – but not the forest itself.
With the falling leaves, there is also the promise of new life and regeneration in both human interactions and in the natural world. For humans the anticipation of a new year brings renewed hope of pursuing dreams and goals once considered unattainable. Additionally, hurts and failures from the past are cast aside as unlimited possibilities are waiting to be claimed. Nature affirms its promise of a new tomorrow even during dormant seasons when inactivity is all that’s apparent to the naked eye. Yet, there is growth and strength taking place deep down within the roots. This all leads to adults on the autism spectrum sometimes spending seasons where there is no outward change, but a new day is coming filled with hope and optimism.
There are a number of forces merging in the world today that makes autism an area of interest and studies support the movement. For the purpose of this article, however, only two primary reasons will be explored in an effort to explain why the future is bright for autistic adults. While this is a complex issue, identifying the simple foundational truths will bring us to a place of greater understanding. First, the world is changing its view with regards to autism and is now more tolerant than ever. Investments are now pouring into research and development in an attempt to find a cure. Moreover, support programs related to educational development and employment issues are growing exponentially. One reason for the explosive growth for autism support is due to the fact that the disorder is no longer a mystery.
Most people around the world have a family member or are aware of someone on the autism spectrum. Learning differences are now recognized in educational settings, with a special interest on therapies such as physical, occupational, and artistic interventions. Most importantly, the stigma once associated with autism is decreasing as awareness of the disorder has expanded significantly during the past decade. There still remains a remnant of the world’s population who cling to negative perceptions of autism in remote villages and developing countries. Those perceptions are often rooted in traditions and cultural norms that have very little to do with autism itself.
The second determining factor behind the surge in broader autism acceptance is self advocacy from within the autism community. Women in particular have emerged as the leaders for self advocacy, as well as petitioning for autism equality. The recent movement involving adults on the spectrum receiving first time diagnoses later in life has been fueled, for the most part, by women demanding answers in their personal lives. In addition, corporate work environments are changing as a result of autistic employees taking a stand for change. This would have been unheard of just a few years ago, as employees on the spectrum struggled with assimilation within corporate cultures. Challenges with communication and socializing with peers on the job was a matter of autistic employees fitting in – or not.
In many cases the pressure to conform was simply too overwhelming, resulting in very talented and gifted employees either accepting less demanding roles or leaving the workplace altogether. Fortunately, employers are recognizing the need to provide supportive environments in order to capture the unique talents autistic workers offer. Moreover, similar changes are taking place in community venues such as grocery stores, churches, and libraries as quiet rooms for customers are becoming more common. Addressing sensory and communication challenges is a part of the inclusion movement now underway in most countries. There is certainly hope for adults on the autism spectrum as more opportunities are opening to provide a better quality of life for everyone.