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FOX Medical Team

Parents of autistic children worry about adulthood

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It's a question thousands of Georgia parents face who have children with autism: what do you do when your child is no longer a child anymore?  

Navigating adulthood is difficult enough for a lot of people. For families of someone with Autism there are all kinds of question: will they be able to find a job? Where will they live?  What kind of programs are out there to help adults with autism.

And finding answers isn't easy.

Cooking is a big part of Jennifer Thompson's morning routine.

But if you sit down and spend some time with Jennifer, you'll realize that the toughest part of that routine is not what goes on in the kitchen, but her ability to communicate.

"At an early age I knew Jennifer had differences. Her development was fine up until 2 years old she wasn't responding to her name or sounds," said Leslie Thompson, Jennifer's mother.

Leslie said that she had mixed emotions when Jennifer was first diagnosed as autistic.

"It seemed like autism back then was a taboo term because parents were nervous when they heard that term," Leslie said.

As Jennifer got older, Leslie said that she began to worry about the quality of life she would have.

"I felt like I was the only one out here with that," Leslie said.  "I was afraid and I'm a Christian and I should not have been afraid and I was afraid."

Leslie is not alone.  In this coming decade, 500,0000 young, autistic children will turn 21, the age at which federally mandated services stop being provided. Add to that a staggering 85 percent unemployment rate for young adults with autism and you can understand why many families are worried.

For many, the reality is that it will be tough road ahead.

Deborah Griffin and her son, Jonathan, know that reality all too well. Finding employment for an autistic adult unless you have connections is difficult, Deborah said.

Jonathan's only income is social security and the family has to wait two years just to get it.

There are currently 260,000 people on a waiting list for housing support. Those who are on social security get about $670 worth.

There are support programs available for families on young adults on the autism spectrum. The challenge is finding those resources. Autism Speaks has resource information for young adults.

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