A new report from San Antonio's Kronkowsky Foundation reveals that only 10% of the estimated 27,000 adults in Bexar County who have autism are receiving care, and the result is that taxpayers spend billions of dollars taking care of these individuals through their lifetimes, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Managing Director Tullos Wells says the problem is, most people think of autism as a childhood condition.
"If you have autism at 16, you'll have it at 56."
And, unlike diabetes and other chronic conditions, there are serious problems connecting these adult patients with available treatment.
"That population, don't have access to services because they don't know where the services are, and we don't know how to find them."
In the first study of this type in the country, Wells says foundation researchers attempted to gauge the types of services that can help autistic adults, judge the lack of treatment that leads to continued suffering, and come up with solutions.
"Every family that has an autistic members, they are affected, their co workers are affected, and it resonates way beyond the individual."
He says while the autism spectrum is now more thoroughly understood, what is not understood is how the brain with autism processes information differently, and Wells says one think his study recommends is more education for law enforcement. He says an autistic adult may not respond to police commands in a way that the officer sees as 'normal' and may even interpret as 'threatening.'
"People who are on the spectrum being pulled over by the police, they don't respond well to commands like 'do this'," he said. "This has led to some pretty tragic consequences."
The first step is for people with autism to register with a new service, autismlifelinks.org.
"By better understanding the need for services of our adults we can better prepare over the next several decades to meet the needs of people with autism throughout their lifetimes," said Cara Magrane, the executive director of Autism Lifeline Links. “With early diagnosis, appropriate treatment and services, today’s children with autism have much better, brighter outcomes and more fulfilling lives."
Wells said despite the progress being made in understanding autism, adults who are in the autism spectrum continue to experience challenges that prevent them from recognizing their full potential, and cause large expenditures of tax dollars to care for them, not to mention requiring many family mebers to act as caregivers.
"Societal interaction is an issue," he said. "They can't get out. They can't get a job. They don't want to get a job."
He says under Kronkowsky's new program, a wide variety of community service organizations will work through Autism Lifeline Links to begin to make a real difference in the lives of these people and their families.
IMAGE: AUTISM SPEAKS