Adults & Autism

In the United States, children diagnosed with autism are eligible for educational services through the public school system until the age of 22 years. Benefits and services for autistic adults over the age of 22 vary from state to state and often depend on the person's individual level of functioning and on what types of programs are available in his or her local area.

With appropriate therapy, many adults with autism or other autism spectrum disorders (e.g., Asperger's syndrome) are able to work at conventional jobs, maintain social and professional relationships, and live relatively independent lifestyles. The level of care and assistance that each person needs depends on the severity of his or her condition.

As in children with autism, autistic adults often experience sleep problems that require treatment. An effective treatment plan can include white noise machines or fans, weighted sleep blankets, melatonin, or other medications. These treatment options may help adults with autism get more restful sleep.

Adults with autism generally need some form of assistance, counseling, and coaching with the following basic life skills:

  • Establishing and maintaining personal and professional relationships
  • Finding an appropriate living arrangement
  • Learning and improving upon communication skills
  • Seeking and maintaining employment

Parents and caregivers of an adult child with autism should contact his or her health care provider for help in locating professionals to assist with finding a place to live, acquiring necessary life skills, and seeking financial assistance. Local or national chapters of non-profit advocacy groups, such as Autism Speaks, also may be able to provide information about appropriate services.

The following types of living arrangements are common to adults with autism:

Independent Living

Adults with milder autism spectrum disorders, such as Asperger's syndrome, may be able to live independently with minimal help. Mildly autistic adults may need help with certain household maintenance tasks, personal finances, and/or accessing benefits and services through state and federal agencies.

Living with Parents or Other Family Members

Adults with autism who continue to live at home with their parents may be able to receive benefits such as Supplemental Security income, Medicaid, or disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Specialized Programs

Some states have residential programs for adults with autism. These programs often teach self-care and housekeeping skills as well as offer job training and social activities. These types of programs may be referred to as foster homes or skill-development homes. Other residential programs, referred to as group homes, offer more supervised care and services such as meal preparation, housekeeping, and assistance with personal care.

Institutions

In rare cases, severely-impaired adults with autism may require supervision and care in a long-term institution.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 30 Oct 2009

Last Modified: 01 Jun 2011