Autism Caregivers

Empowering Adults With Autism: Strategies for Caregivers

Written by Anthony Emecheta

Empowering Black adults with autism as a caregiver presents a complex and multifaceted challenge, rooted in the intersecting layers of race, ethnicity, and neurodevelopmental diversity. Within the Black community, systemic barriers such as limited access to culturally competent services, disparities in healthcare, and societal stigma surrounding both autism and mental health create significant hurdles. Additionally, caregivers often grapple with the lack of representation and resources tailored to the unique experiences and needs of Black individuals with autism. Despite these challenges, the importance of empowering Black adults with autism cannot be overstated. It’s essential not only for their individual well-being but also for fostering a more inclusive society that values diversity and embraces the full spectrum of human neurodiversity. Empowerment enables autonomy, self-determination, and a sense of belonging, empowering individuals to lead fulfilling lives and contribute meaningfully to their communities.

For the first time in 2023, it was reported that autism was more frequently diagnosed in Black and Hispanic children compared to White children in the United States. Years before that, autism was usually more diagnosed in White children. The future is usually challenging for a child with autism and their caregivers, hence the need to know how to empower an adult with autism.

The challenges faced by Black people living with autism

Since autism is a spectrum, it affects people in different ways. Adults living with autism may find everyday life challenging, depending on the severity of their autism. Small tasks can become overwhelming and mar the quality of their lives. These challenges often affect their social life too.

The issue with Black people living with autism is that their challenges are often unique, requiring a comprehensive understanding of race and disability to deal with including racial late-diagnosis, double discrimination, limited access to resources, stigma, and even police encounters. Identifying the challenges faced by adults living with autism is an important step toward finding a way to empower them.

Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of an adult with autism can better equip you with the tools needed to help them make informed decisions about their wellbeing. The combination of poor communication skills and difficulty in learning can make an adult autist seem rude.

“Sometimes people just make assumptions, like they think that you’re being rude,” said Tara, an adult autist, in a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. “Or maybe they think you are being lazy something, but you are not. And they don’t understand. They don’t understand you, and that makes it really hard.”

The best way to empower an adult with autism is to help them overcome the most common challenges they face—based on your assessment.

1. Build a relationship

Building a relationship with an adult with autism will not only help them to freely express themselves around you but will also help you to understand them better when they communicate. This may take longer compared to adults without autism If you are a caregiver, continuity is important. Working with one adult with autism over a prolonged time will be more effective than short interactions.

2. Use technological communication aid

The difficulty in communication is also a source of anxiety and anger among adults with autism. When working with adults with autism who struggle with communication, consider using special, communication devices to make it easier for them to communicate. Some of these devices come with preprogrammed buttons. At the push of a button, the device says what has been programmed for that button, which is often represented with images to reduce the learning curve.

3. Consider making adjustments to the home

Autism is a form of disability according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Like every other form of disability, creating a handicap-accessible home can go a long way in improving their quality of life by helping them to live more independently. Work with the adult with autism to identify the best form of lighting that they can tolerate.

4. Craft a healthy lifestyle routine

Since people with autism are more at risk of certain physical and mental illnesses, it is more crucial for them to have a healthy lifestyle routine. It is estimated that 70% of autistic people have at least one mental or physical health challenge. However, they are often undiagnosed. Work with a health practitioner to identify any health issues that an adult with autism may be facing and devise the best medication and lifestyle routine that will help them overcome the challenge.

5. Be an advocate

Even when you cannot directly help someone living with autism, try to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. With this knowledge, you can connect them with the right people who may be willing to assist them build a life of independence with volunteer and career opportunities.

It is important to realize that the task of empowering an adult with autism is not something you should try to do alone. Identify any affordable specialist services that may be available in your area, including community activities with social opportunities for those with autism. Quality interaction, home modifications, and technology can help adults with autism manage how the disability affects them and live better and more fulfilling lives.

For more reading

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

https://apnews.com/article/how-common-is-autism-e38179682e2759b0aff9c017bf7ebf61

https://www.autismspeaks.org/sensory-issues

https://www.youngminds.org.uk/young-person/mental-health-conditions/autism-and-mental-health

https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/autistic-individuals-have-increased-risk-of-chronic-physical-health-conditions-across-the-whole-body

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8788904

https://www.nice.org.uk/about/nice-communities/social-care/quick-guides/enabling-positive-lives-for-autistic-adults

https://amzn.to/4aatnYo

About the author

Anthony Emecheta

Anthony Emecheta holds a master’s degree in microbiology. He is a passionate educator and particularly an advocate of racial equality. He strongly believes the world will be a better place if we all see ourselves as humans first before anything else.

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