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Bracing for the future: Autistic young adults in Latino Communities

Fellowship Story Showcase

Bracing for the future: Autistic young adults in Latino Communities

Picture of Norma  Rubio

Norma Rubio reported this story for NBC News and NBCLatino as a 2013 California Endowment Health Journalism Fellow.

Another story in her Fellowship project can be found here: 

“Don’t give up”: With family’s help, Latina with autism is in college, pursuing career

NBC Latino
Wednesday, April 10, 2013

It’s Autism Awareness Month in our country, and there’s no doubt that more people in America know about this developmental disability than they did two decades ago when rates began increasing dramatically.

Autism, a condition once considered rare, now afflicts an estimated 1 in 88 children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  And while autism is more common among white children, the largest increases in diagnoses over time have been among Hispanic children.

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASDs handle information in their brain differently than other people.  ASDs are “spectrum disorders.” That means ASDs affect each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe.  People with ASDs share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction. But there are differences in when the symptoms start, how severe they are, and the exact nature of the symptoms.

While the spectrum is broad, experts agree early intervention is crucial to helping autistic children become high-functioning adults in society.  But with so much focus on the early years, what happens to teens transitioning into adulthood?  In many states, children with autism will lose their entitlement to support services from the public school system around the age of 22.

For autistic children born in that first wave of increased diagnoses and their families, the transition into adulthood is happening now. It can be a very difficult and stressful time.  Many families also face limited resources, language barriers and economic uncertainty.

In a recent study published online in Pediatrics, researchers found that more than half of young adults with autism had no job or schooling within two years of graduating high school. Are America’s Hispanic families and communities prepared to help serve this generation?

As part of a special project with Telemundo, NBCLatino.com hopes to explore this topic more deeply by talking with families who are living with these challenges.

We begin with the story of southern California’s Ana DaSilva and her family of 5.  Eighteen-year-old Andy DaSilva has autism and is about to graduate high school.  Anna is worried about Andy’s transition into college.  He wants to become a  chef or maybe an animator someday.

This story first ran on NBCLatino on April 9, 2013.