CLEVELAND -- We've all heard the statistics.
One in 88 children is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. When it comes to boys it's one in 54.
More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than AIDS, cancer and diabetes combined.
"There's, what I call, a tsunami of children coming in down the pike," said Shari Goldberg. Her 15-year-old son Noah was diagnosed with autism at 18-months, "If one in eighty-eight children right now have autism then imagine how many adults and we have to help those adults and figure out how they're going to fit into our community because they are our community. They're our children, our brothers, our sisters."
Goldberg is the founder of the Cleveland Chapter of Autism Speaks. She works relentlessly with her son to provide for him now and for the day that she is no longer able to help.
50,000 children with autism will turn 18 this year. A study from the Journal of Pediatrics says that most are not seeking secondary education, and have a harder time getting a job, compared to people with other disabilities. A disturbing trend because poverty is a major problem for people with disabilities.
"Many, many adults with disabilities, a huge amount of adults with disabilities live in poverty. The answer to that is not just giving them more money, giving them more benefits, the answer is to give them meaningful employment," explained Chris Filler.
Filler is a registered nurse and the transition coordinator for the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence, also know as OCALI.
"The numbers of people with autism only make us open our eyes wider and say 'Oh my gosh, how are we going to do this?' But the work has been started and it's continuing.
Peter Gerhardt, EdD, is with the The McCarton School in New York City. The school has a special focus on autism, he focuses on the transition years.
"Right now we talk about what a horrible, challenging, significant developmental disability it is, but then I come along and I say yeah, but you can hire him," Gerhardt said, If we give a little on one end in terms of accommodating our need for specialized services on the other end diminishes a little bit. So we can find a very positive accommodation I think by working on both ends of this spectrum so to speak."
Gerhardt was in town as a part of a two-day conference hosted by the Milestone's Autism Organization. He puts the issue in perspective this way:
"The conversation has started and I think the big step we have to take as a society we've gotten very comfortable with accommodations made for people with physical disabilities we have curb cuts, and we have handicapped parking spaces and we have ramps and we have handicapped bathroom stalls, now... We are really talking about what would curb cuts be for someone with a neurological disorder?"
Both Milestones and Autism Speaks have kits to aid in the transition process from the teen years to adulthood.