Adults with Autism: The Importance of First Person Accounts
Many parents of children with autism wonder what will happen when their children grow up – what will their adult lives be like? This is true of all parents, but likely more so for parents of children with autism. And just like neurotypical children, children with autism are each unique and have strengths that help them in life and weaknesses that may sometimes hold them back.
Donald Gray Triplett was the first person ever diagnosed with autism, back in 1942. In a wonderful article in The Atlantic called “Autism’s First Child” the journalists write about tracking Donald T. down to his home town in Forest, Mississippi. The writers spoke with Donald at the age of 77 (he is now 86) and provide us with a good understanding of what his adult experiences have been like.
Donald T. has led a rich life of world travel and almost daily golf, which is hard to imagine for a child whose favorite activities were “spinning objects and himself.” In part, the reporters write, Donald T. did well in life due to family resources and the members of the small town of Forest who are protective of him:
In Forest, it appears, Donald was showered with acceptance, starting with the mother who defied experts to bring him back home [from an institution], and continuing on to classmates from his childhood and golfing partners today. Donald’s neighbors not only shrug off his oddities, but openly admire his strengths—while taking a protective stance with any outsider whose intentions toward Donald may not have been sufficiently spelled out. On three occasions, while talking with townspeople who know Donald, we were advised, in strikingly similar language each time: “If what you’re doing hurts Don, I know where to find you.” We took the point: in Forest, Donald is “one of us.”
While each person with autism is unique, I am always grateful to learn more about their experiences. In our Autism & Resources Community blog we have been fortunate to have a handful of young adults who have told us about their lives.
Thanks to Nathan and the other young adults who have been willing to share parts of their lives with us. Nathan’s article on The Positive Side of Autism has been read by over 30,000 people! I think it struck a chord.
Angela Nelson, CEO Stages Learning
Editor: Autism Resources & Community