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In today’s world, modern research has presented new information on many developmental disabilities.

Some of these disabilities include those that fall into the autistic spectrum. These disorders include Asperger’s Syndrome, autistic disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder — also known as atypical autism. The rate of those falling under this spectrum has been growing. In fact, research has shown that the growth rate of those living with autistic spectrum disorders is at 1,148 percent, making it the fastest growing developmental disability.

Ever since its distinction by the American Psychiatric Association in 1994, many treatments and programs have been made to assist a person in overcoming the obstacles that are associated with these disorders. Many of these programs have been known to work effectively and have helped to better the lives of those living on the spectrum. Although this is a move in the right direction, unfortunately most of these programs are more focused on children than adolescents and adults.

When many of the programs to treat autistic spectrum disorders were created, a significant number of those who were already living with autism were adults. These adults didn’t find out about their disorder until they were in their 30s and 40s. It has only been recently that a handful of programs have been created for adults living on the autistic spectrum. This is not enough.

Also a dilemma for the older children/adolescents living on the spectrum, who are already in programs, is that they only cater to a certain age population. Where will they go when they are considered too old to be part of the program? There are many obstacles that older children and adolescents face. Even those who are not on the autistic spectrum might find these challenges difficult to overcome. Such obstacles include job hunting, financial obligations and the most daunting for many on the spectrum: social situations. Services should cater to everyone on the spectrum so that they can continue to strenghten their skills as they move on to adulthood.

With regard to adults, there should be programs that can help those who are living on the spectrum find employment. For adults on the autistic spectrum, especially those diagnosed with Asperger’s, the skills that are needed for finding a job, such as contacting and interviewing with an employer, are lacking. These skills are needed in order for an individual to live in today’s society.

Another factor that adults living on the spectrum face is handling finances. When children who have these disorders become adults, they will have to deal with paying rent, bills and insurance. As of now, I have never heard of any program that can help adults on the autistic spectrum gain such vital skills. To deny this population of such a program would deny the skills needed to support them as they grow older. Such programs should be implemented in order to help teach this population these important skills so they can help themselves to be financially secure.

Meanwhile, the lack of assistance in handling social situations is most harmful for adults living with autism.

Even though there are many treatments and programs to help children on the spectrum gain social skills, adults are mostly put in the dark when navigating this area. As someone living with Asperger’s, I can honestly say that even though I have progressed greatly in my social skills, there are still times in which I feel that I need some assistance.

Training in social skills must not end when individual become adults. There must be programs that continue to help adults on the autistic spectrum improve their social skills in order to live a healthy life.

My fellow students at Penn, you can help with this. Educate yourselves with the knowledge out there about the autistic spectrum. Participate in awareness events to help expand your knowledge. Find out for yourselves how those living on the spectrum go through challenges that many others see as everyday life. Educate others about Autism Awareness and show the world that this is something worth fighting for. The University of Pennsylvania is a place of advocacy for knowledge. Let’s put that knowledge to good use.

Treating those who are living on the autistic spectrum is a lifelong process. If we end that process after childhood, then where can we go from there?

Robert Schmus is a Social Policy & Practice graduate student from Voorhees, N.J. His email address is

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