Quality of Life in Autism
For children and adults with autism an inspired quality of life is essential. For this to be achieved physical, psychological, social, spiritual and practical living and leisure components must be recognized, understood and addressed. The focus must be on optimizing communication skills, the ability to live in a community, the learning of functional skills that support employment and group engagement and elimination of behavioral challenges that lead to self injury or inhibit family and community functioning.
Quality of life is determined by the person with autism and not by you. Safety, legal and health issues must be identified and solved but the focus must be on the perspective of the individual with autism rather than your perspective.
The role of the community is to be supportive, available and non-judgmental. Early identification and acceptance are essential as is the provision of all reasonable and non-restrictive services that open the doors of opportunity for the persons of all ages with autism.
For the person with autism quality of life support must include personal and social opportunities that allow and foster the initiation and maintenance of relationships with individuals and with the community. Environmental and financial supports are also essential and must be individualized and reassessed on an ongoing basis.
An inspired quality of life focuses on strengths rather than difficulties. It must be skill and interest based rather than deficit dependent and must provide opportunities for the individual with autism to live, work and create as a member of a family and a community. The availability and access to leisure fun activities and everyday living opportunities such as shopping and transportation must be a priority. Intellectual disability and deficits of reactivity and regulation that are often the cause of behavioral challenges must be dealt with. Access to and participation in medical care that responds to both physical and mental health issues must also be integrated into the daily life of those with autism.
A quality of life balance can only be achieved if job opportunities, day care, group home and supportive training programs are available that allow a matching of needs, skill sets and interests. The avoidance of high risk situations that lead to cumulative stress and behavioral reactivity and challenges is essential as is an awareness of organizational skill deficits and sensory sensitivity.
An inspired quality of life is the dream of every parent whose child is diagnosed with autism. It is your role and the role of every community member to help every person with autism find an inspired quality of life.