What is the problem?
97,000 talented Australian adults are struggling, facing years of isolation, mental health issues and a lack of fulfilling employment. Why? Because they have high functioning autism (HFA) or Asperger's disorder (AD), and according to a recent report called "We Belong" released by Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), they aren't getting the support they need to achieve their goals and aspirations.
"I hate looking stupid. It's the one thing I'm not. I hate having something valuable to say, but no one listens because I can't get it out. I hate feeling like I am walking in sand but leave no footprints so there is no evidence I was ever here at all." Alison, survey respondent, aged 44, QLD.
Around 1 in 100 people have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Around 60 per cent of people with an ASD fall into the HFA or AD group. Applying the '1 in 100' prevalence rate to the Australian context translates to around 220,000 people nationwide, of whom 130,000 can be considered high functioning. Of these, approximately 97,000 are aged 18 years and over and they're the people whose experiences we investigated when we undertook the study and who represent a tsunami of unmet need.
We Belong is an Australian first report that provides this talented group of people with the opportunity to have their say about the services and supports they need to achieve their goals and aspirations.
Key We Belong findings include:
· Very high levels of mental health and well-being issues.
· Inadequate levels of support during education years and in the workplace.
· Over one-quarter of people in this category are involuntarily unemployed.
· Respondents indicated high levels of ongoing support needs in many areas of their lives including:
o Social interactions and relationships (77%)
o Finding a job (67%)
Research shows that autism spectrum disorders affect around one in 100 people and that they are more common in males than females. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which remains largely misunderstood by the community despite its prevalence and far-reaching consequences. Limited social skills and an inability to communicate and interact are the most obvious impairments. Early intervention opens up the best opportunities for progress so that many people with autism can lead productive lives.
Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) operates a network of eight schools plus 92 satellite classes in one of the world's biggest education programs for children with autism. A not-for-profit organisation working in partnership with families and service providers, it offers evidence-based interventions for individual needs. Professionals and families benefit from Autism Spectrum Australia's assessments, early intervention, behaviour support, workshops, volunteer support, and outreach programs. It also offers services for adults with autism. All programs aim to maximise learning potential, participation, and independence by increasing capacity and confidence in communities.
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