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More Support Needed For Adults With Autism

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) --- Within the next 10 years, nearly half a million young people diagnosed with autism grow into adulthood. A new survey says there will be a big need for supportive services and housing for these autistic adults.

The housing and residential supports survey was conducted over the course of four weeks and included responses from 10,000 caregivers and 400 people with autism spectrum disorder.

"There's no national plan or effort to really strategically deal with so many adults with autism coming into the system," says Leslie Long, director of adult services for Autism Speaks, which conducted the survey.

She says 300,000 adults with disabilities are already on waiting lists for Medicaid housing, which means parents need to plan early.

"We need more options out there," she says. "We're asking [parents]--have you thought about housing? Have you thought about when you are no longer able to care for your son or daughter?"

According to the survey, 84 percent of caregivers reported an individual diagnosed along the spectrum is currently living at home. Nearly 70 percent said they had no outside help to provide care, while half claimed they needed assistance.

"Residential type programs are not sustainable in the future, says Maureen Cronin, executive director of The Arc of Pennsylvania. "We're going to need life sharing options and lot less expensive ways to support people."

She says the plan for the future needs to be thoughtful and progressive.

"People with disabilities want a real life and want to be supported to have the same thing everyone else has," she says.

Cronin says people with disabilities do not want to live in facilities, nor can they afford it. She says new services should facilitate more independent living that is close to family.

"I would advise parents of children with autism to speak with each other, find other parents with kids who are older and ask them what they did," says Cronin. "Every child is different. Some can live on their own, go to college and are fine. Others may need help."

The Arc of Pennsylvania advocates on behalf of individuals with disabilities. The group has 34 chapters in Pennsylvania and represents more than 8,000 people. For more info, go to the Arc of Pennsylvania's website.

Follow Cherri Gregg on Twitter @cherrigregg.

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