AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) represents a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by varying degrees of difficulty in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. There is no single identified cause and no known cure.
At present, it is estimated that more than 3.5 million Americans, and tens of millions worldwide, are living with autism. Autism occurs across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups but is almost five times more common in boys than girls.
Autism is recognized as the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S. In 2010, CDC statistics identify around 1 in 68 eight year old American children as on the autism spectrum (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls), which is a ten-fold increase in prevalence over the last 40 years. Almost half a million children with ASD will become adults in the next decade. Additionally, projections of current rates into 2025 suggest that one half all children in the United States will have autism.
Every individual with ASD is unique in their abilities and challenges. Whereas much focus to date has been on the challenges that individuals face with autism, we know that a great many of these individuals excel well beyond the average population in intellectual abilities, and visual, music, math, art and academic skills. Yet, despite their heightened abilities, most young adults with autism are experiencing particular difficulty during transition into adulthood, and are struggling to attain success in higher education, employment and independent living.
While it is important to understand the difficulties presented by autism, it is imperative that we turn focus to effectively promoting the natural abilities of these individuals while providing skill development to overcome the social obstacles. There is an urgent need to provide effective opportunities, training, supports and technology that will allow individuals with autism to successfully transition into adulthood and reach their full potential. This population is very able, can achieve greatness and has much to offer the world.
SLLEA’s mission is to improve the lives of young adults on the autism spectrum as they grow into their independence. Our approach integrates smart technology, individualized training, assessment, and focused supports in the major transition areas of independent living, college education, and employment.
SLLEA, Smart Living, Learning & Earning with Autism, opened our first smart home for young adults with high functioning autism who are pursuing college, independent living and employment. Our pilot home is in the historic district of Springfield, Oregon, near public transportation and amenities. The home is equipped with assistive technology throughout, ranging from automatic stove and light shut-offs to computer tablets and smart phones equipped with specialized software that provides, among other things, individualized cues, calendaring, and video instruction for cooking and various household tasks.
Our first students include three young men who utilize this assistive technology to live independently as they work and/or pursue college. The home serves as a pilot to collect qualitative and quantitative data for the SLLEA Assessment and Training House program, and future homes for training graduates.