I am heartened that today a presidential candidate has finally stepped forward to help address autism. As Founder and President of Madison House Autism Foundation, one of the few organizations in the country focused solely on the needs of adults on the autism spectrum and their families, care providers, and communities, I am keenly aware of the unmet needs of those with autism and greatly concerned about the future of this population. Since Madison House works on issues affecting those 21 and over, our efforts are directed toward addressing daily and lifelong needs rather than searching for a cure.
Each day, we hear the stories of families and individuals who are at a loss of where to turn because their lives are in upheaval. Whereas many on the autism spectrum function beautifully in the world and make relevant contributions to society, there are others who confront huge mood swings, sensory challenges, and other behaviors that make it difficult for them to navigate successfully in their daily lives.
Many aging parents are dealing with unmanageable and potentially aggressive behaviors by their children who are now much stronger than they and perhaps outweigh them. These dramatic behaviors isolate their child as well as parents from meaningful engagement with the remainder of the family and in the community.
Families are in need of assistance. The proposed outline presented today is a strong beginning, but it will need to be expanded, especially in the area of adults. Too often, autism is trivialized, glossed over, or exploited. Political candidates either ignore the topic or they zero in on a few controversial points that take away from the total impact autism has on families and individuals. As a nation, it is our obligation to address this issue in a strategic and thoughtful manner. One statement in a campaign is not going to give national direction on how to confront the complexities that are inherent in autism. Today’s autistic children will become tomorrow’s autistic adults, and we must be prepared for the 60 years plus of their adulthood.
When we start to honestly address the issues that face individuals on the autism spectrum, we will also help others, including those with other intellectual/developmental disabilities as well and a host of other conditions. We applaud this first step and challenge other candidates to give this subject thoughtful consideration.