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What will Autism support look like in 100 years?

Did you ever bury a time capsule when you were young? Many of us feel a pull to preserve the present, especially as we feel time racing by. We want to leave our mementos for someone else to find. Invariably, the exercise leads us to ponder our futures, to ask, “What will the world look like 100 years from now?”

Just ten years ago in 2006, the incidence of autism in the United States was 1 in 110. Today, about 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder. The autism rate is rising, and the increase triggers changes in government policy, insurance funding, research, and societal norms.

While we can’t see into a crystal ball and predict the future, we can look at current trends and patterns to help us identify what we hope to see happening with autism support in 2016.

ABA therapy becomes available and accessible for everyone

Limited local availability and high cost are the two most significant roadblocks to families seeking Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services today. There aren’t enough trained clinicians to meet the demand, particularly in more remote areas. Plus, paying for therapy sessions out-of-pocket is out of the question for some families, and it severely strains the resources of others.

Within the next 100 years, we anticipate an increase in the number of ABA therapists and a complete reformation of insurance coverage for autism services, too.

As it so happens, this shift has already begun. Some states and companies continue to refuse ABA coverage, but many more are making positive changes. (Check out Autism Speaks’ State Initiatives page to learn more about insurance reform initiatives in your particular state.)

FirstPath Autism exists to help bridge the gap between families and professional, affordable ABA services. Though in-person therapy isn’t an option for everyone right now, our video library of lessons allows autism families to practice ABA from home.

Mistreatment and abuse can be halted by giving individuals a voice

Autism awareness has come a long way in the last few decades, but there are still disturbingly frequent incidents of prejudice, injustice, and mistreatment of individuals on the spectrum. By 2116, we hope that individuals with autism will be welcomed and fully included in our schools, homes, and communities.

Terri Baker’s son Kyle was treated by our FirstPath Autism Founder, Romey Kiryakous and her team at the Genesis Behavior Center. As Baker wrote in her Student Story guest post, How ABA Therapy unlocked Kyle’s world:

“ABA gave Kyle his voice and saved him …. Kyle had been physically, mentally, and verbally abused by teachers, principals, and administrators for years. This had been the reason his behavior had been so out of control; he had had no voice to get help.”

We grieve the prejudice and poor treatment that Kyle endured, and we’re honored to provide the ABA therapy tools that help individuals to speak up in abusive situations.

The strengths of individuals with autism are harnessed and their contributions honored

In the last decade, we’ve seen major companies step up to the autism employment plate, notably Freddie Mac, Microsoft, Walgreens, and SAP.

On a local level, myriad nonprofits and small businesses now employ adults on the spectrum to farm and harvest organic food, provide service at restaurants, welcome guests at hotels, and create new technology, media, and art.

In the future, we anticipate more innovative businesses and services springing up, allowing adults with autism to contribute to society and earn their livings too.

The gifts of neurodiversity are embraced

When it comes to autism support, we don’t need to aim for uniformity or conformity. Instead, we need to figure out ways to welcome our differences and suspend judgment about what qualifies as a “normal” brain.

As Steve Silberman writes in his bestselling book, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity:

“By autistic standards, the ‘normal’ brain is easily distractible, is obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit of attention to detail and routine. Thus people on the spectrum experience the neurotypical world as relentlessly unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually turned up too loud, and full of people who have little respect for personal space.” 

As we move forward into the future, we at FirstPath Autism focus on supporting individuals with autism in their social and emotional learning. In this way, we equip people on the spectrum to succeed even as we adjust our own expectations and behavior.

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