Nechama has high hopes for Shalom’s future. He shows high intelligence, including excellent problem-solving skills, and proficiency in math, reading, music and computers. Even though he may never function well in a traditional classroom environment, she believes he will have many options as he grows older.
Today, adults with autism like Temple Grandin and Stephen Shore, who have found the fulfillment that comes with independence and a successful career or family of their own, are still much too rare. In 10 or 15 years, there will be millions more maturing young adults with autism facing a crossroads in their lives, like Aaron Winston did. The challenge for society is to provide more programs like the nonPareil Institute which enable them to develop their intelligence and innate skills and take them as far as they can go.
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Today, millions of members of the baby boomer generation are being confronted with the new realities of aging in America. Many now reaching the traditional retirement age of 65 are still fit and vigorous and do not consider themselves to be old. Thanks to medical science, 60 has indeed become the new 40, and most can look forward to years — and perhaps decades! — more of life in relatively good health. Yet, many do not want to retire.
Between 1997 and 2008, the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) increased almost fourfold, according to the National Health Interview survey. The 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health indicated that 1.1 percent of all children born in this country are on the autism spectrum.
As Rabbi Meyer Waxman discusses elsewhere in this issue, more elderly parents are being forced, by circumstances, to move in with their adult children, as are more young adults who find themselves compelled to move back into their parents’ home. More adults have become part of the sandwich generation, as members of the six million American households today that span three or even four generations.
Fundamental and far-reaching changes are coming that will have a profound effect on every individual in New York State who receives services under the current system for caring for individuals with developmental disabilities.