A change in definitions of autism disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of he American in the early 90's, widely applied by the late 90's undoubtedly accounts for a significant part of that increase. It is possible also that increased awareness has contributed as well although that is not as clear. Awareness of many disorders and conditions has increased as a result of the rapidly changing technology of communication. Information is more easily and rapidly shared today then at any time in history. There is no obvious reason why greater awareness would increase autism diagnoses more than other neurological or behavioral disorders. In the meantime the boom in numbers of autistic persons is beginning to require that serious attention be paid to the needs for persons with autism in higher education, jobs and residential care for the more severely autistic.
Janet Zimmerman examines these issues in "As autistic children age, society faces challenges"on the Press-Enterprise, PE.com. The article mentions several ways in which college and job challenges are being addressed and speaks to the reality of residential care for severely autistic adults but provides little, other than a parents' hope, on how those serious residential challenges will be met:
"Brandon Woolsey is severely autistic and functions at a first-grade level. He needs one-on-one care, which is rare in the adult day care programs currently available, she said. He also wouldn't do well in a workshop setting because the noise and number of people would overwhelm him, Woolsey said.
But Brandon is good with his hands and does well outside, so Woolsey and her friend are hoping to start a ranch where Brandon and a few other autistic men could live and work in a structured environment tending a garden and horses.
"I said my son is always going to live with me, but the reality is he can't unless we outlive our kids," Woolsey said. "As he got older, I started thinking about what's fair to him as a young man. He deserves to be as independent as possible."
The highest functioning people with autism, with some personalized help, will be able to go to college, hold jobs and live independently.
Those with severe autism may need residential care, day programs and transportation -- all more costly to the system than children being cared for by their families."Are we, as a society, ready to deal with the tremendous challenges facing us as our autistic population ages? In New Brunswick, unfortunately, we have not yet made a serious effort to meet those challenges.