While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been collecting data and releasing information about the prevalence of autism in children for decades, 2020 marks the first time the CDC has reported on adults. More than 5 million adults are estimated to be autistic in the United States of America. A few other countries have been reporting their statistics over the past decade and the World Health Organization provides an estimated prevalence of 1:270 irrespective of age. As we all know, children with autism, grow up to be adults with autism.
The majority of behavior analysts working in applied settings report autism as their primary professional emphasis. However, the majority of jobs, behavior analytic publications, and even conference presentations are child-focused. Clearly, the needs of children are important but 75% of a person’s life is in adulthood. There is a lot of work to do to ensure autistic adults achieve a high-quality life. Under and unemployment is rampant, death by suicide is significantly higher than the typical population and autistic adults report being lonely at higher rates. At the upcoming ABAI conference, a few of our colleagues are tackling important adult issues including employment, social engagement, and a fantastic invited tutorial by the not to be missed Peter Gerhardt.
Here’s to looking ahead to our field advocating for access to behavior analytic services for autistic adults with the same vigor we did for children, developing our skill-set as professionals so we can champion a life of social significance that includes quality living environments, meaningful careers, and a rich social life, and inviting more adults on the spectrum to join our field. Autistic adults contribute to the beautiful diversity of our society, and “in diversity there is beauty and there is strength,” Maya Angelou.