Coming Of Age With Autism

About one in 120 children in the Washington state public school system has an autism spectrum disorder. That’s a 430 percent increase from a decade ago. In the next decade many of those teenagers with autism will become adults. But what they will do as adults is anyone’s guess. Autism is often associated with children, but it’s a lifelong condition.

In Coming Of Age With Autism, we meet young people taking their first steps toward independence, and the family members and professionals who support them.

Experts are not sure why the number of autism cases has grown dramatically in the last decade. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed, and served. The American Psychological Association published broader criteria for diagnosing autism spectrum disorders in 1994. The CDC says it's likely that reported increases are explained partly by greater awareness by doctors, teachers, and parents.

Coming Of Age With Autism was reported and photographed by Bryan Buckalew and edited by Phyllis Fletcher with technical support from Serene Careaga.

Funding  for Coming Of Age With Autism was provided by the KUOW Program Venture Fund.  Contributors include Paul and Laurie Ahern, the KUOW Board of Directors and Listener Subscribers.

Health
8:00 pm
Sat November 10, 2012

For Young Adults, Autism Diagnosis Opens Doors, Minds

Dorian Hinkle (left) and Jordan Howard at the Federal Way farmers market.
Credit KUOW photo/Bryan Buckalew

Growing up, Jordan Howard always felt like an outsider. He had trouble making friends, and he felt awkward in groups. He says he felt like one of those misunderstood high school clichés. And he could never put his finger on why.

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Health
7:50 pm
Sat November 10, 2012

Purpose And A Paycheck: Job-Seekers With Autism Reach For Both

Alex Brenner (left), Jordan Howard and Dorian Hinkle relax after their final day working at the Federal Way farmers market for the summer.
Credit KUOW photo/Bryan Buckalew

The first time Rolando Elias came to work at the Federal Way farmers market, Dr. April Walter was nervous.

“That was a big-time risk,” April says. “It could have blown up in my face.” She opened a tent at the market to give young adults with autism a chance to work.

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Health
7:40 pm
Sat November 10, 2012

Cautiously Optimistic: Off To College, With Autism

Housemates Patrick Andrews (left) and Alex Brenner in their kitchen.
KUOW photo/Bryan Buckalew

Alex Brenner walked into his psychologist's office one day this summer and right away, he thought he had done something wrong. Both his parents were standing at the front desk. As he closed the door, his mom handed him a letter. “She said, 'read it.' I sat down. It said, ‘you’re getting into the University of Washington.’”

Alex was stunned. His dad helped him uncork a bottle of champagne and they celebrated on the spot. The University of Washington in Seattle was Alex’s first choice among schools. He had been studying for four years at a community college to get his grades up. All his hard work had finally paid off. But sitting there holding his acceptance letter, another wave of realization washed over him. Soon he’d be living on his own in a new city, a long drive from his parents’ home in Tacoma. He suddenly felt nervous.

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