We all pay when adults with autism who are capable of working are not provided with the speech and language services they need in order to succeed. I just posted an article from the ASHA Leader that is titled “Who Pays for Communication Skills and Autism Services for Young Adults?” If young adults with autism, who are capable of working, do not receive the ongoing speech and language services they need to succeed they often fail. I have met lawyers, teachers, music composers, and other professional with autism, all of whom have completed their degress, yet been unable to get or keep a job.
Steve (not a real person) is responsible, hard working, and lives independently. Steve has high functioning autism also known as Asperger syndrome(AS). Two years ago he graduated from a well known 4 year college. He majored in math and minored in art. Steve is trying to get a job after spending the last year pursuing his art. He has not been successful financially with his art, but he is an amazing artist. He has applied to many jobs and finally has an interview for a position that would be perfect for him, but when the interviewer asks questions about Steve’s minor in art he doesn’t understand how his minor connects with this job in math. He is uncomfortable and anxious and begins to say things that are inappropriate for an interview because he sees his work with his art as failure. Steve does not get the job. Steve needs to practice interview skills, but he also needs help in re-evaluating his view of his career in art. People with AS have difficulty self-evaluating. He has to learn to talk about his strengths and weaknesses and help people understand how is major and minor help to make him to be an even stronger job candidate. For part of an interview Steve can use a script; however, Steve also needs to learn to answer the questions from the interviewers perspective. These are all skills that involve language and executive function that Steve needs to be made aware of and work on, but with limited social interactions and no direct training it is unlikely that he will learn these skills.
In order for people with AS to continue to acquire social language skills they require explicit instruction in the area of executive functioning and pragmatics at various times throughout their lifetimes. So, who pays when we as a society don’t provide the supports that adults with AS need to continue to learn the lessons that most of us take for granted? We all do.