April is appropriately both Occupational Therapy Month and National Autism Awareness Month. By 2029 almost 400,000 children with ASD will transition into adulthood, straining the already limited resources available. The U.S. ”Individuals with Disabilities Act” (IDEA) mandates special education and related services in public schools until age 21. But after that, families are left to choose between expensive private higher education, scarce voc-tech programs, long waiting lists at independent living facilities/day programs, and low skilled employment opportunities. It is clear from both anecdotal and empirical research, that there is no “one solution fits all”, but OT can play a vital role in encouraging independence and self-regulation, as well as strengthening competencies over the lifetime of these
Susan N. Schriber Orloff, OTR/L suggests integrating OT into the high school curriculum of autistic students. Being proactive earlier in the process makes for a smoother transition.. Playing up an autistic’s strengths rather than just remediating their weaknesses also appears to be effective in “mainstreaming” autistic adults. Aspiritech, a software testing company, was created to employ high functioning ASD/Asperger’s adults, including the owner’s son. Their hirees share an attention to detail, high tolerance for repetitive tasks, extreme focus, and an ability to spot irregularities – traits that are conducive to this line of work. Unfortunately, companies like this remain the exception. Orloff believes OTs must take the lead in educating the community and businesses about autistic adults with the goal of opening many more doors.
For its part, AOTA is working to enhance OT’s visibility within the autism community. Partnering with “Autism Speaks” on advocacy, research and practical issues of mutual interest. If you are an OT who currently works with or is interested in working with ASD clients call us at 800 535 0076 and we will find you the right environment for your talents.