When people are asked what they know about autism spectrum disorder, many immediately describe children with difficulties socializing, who are intensely focused upon certain topics, who have trouble regulating emotions and communicating properly, and may have a myriad of other issues disabling them from properly taking part in everyday life. They may mention having met a young child who couldn’t talk or a child they once saw throw a tantrum in the mall, or one who has no friends but knows far more about math or science or art than anyone their age should be capable of. While these people aren’t necessarily wrong about this analysis of the disorder, it’s a limited view of all the nuances of ASD, and overlooks the many variations and forms the disorder takes.
What people also often fail to realize is that these children on the autistic spectrum grow up to be adults on the autistic spectrum. It’s common when people are asked whether they’ve met any adults with autism for the answer to be a plain and simple “no.” But how is that possible? With 2% of the American population suffering from ASD, that’s 1 in every 50 people that we meet. Surely somebody we know must have ASD. The issue is that despite all the advantages currently being given to children on the autism spectrum through schools and initiative programs, the outlook for adults with ASD is still poor. For once a child with autism becomes an adult with autism, they often find themselves without any help making their way in the world. While the training and attention they’ve received as children leaves them better off than they would be if they hadn’t had any help at all, these are still people with disabilities and difficulties trying to make their way, with nobody to help. Adults with autism often find themselves withdrawing from daily life, working jobs that don’t involve dealing with a lot of people, or even working from home. Some withdraw from any form of socialization and live in complete solitude. And if they can’t make it work, many of these adults end up homeless. Spectrum Fusion is an organization run by Dr. Heidi Ham that seeks to change this bleak outlook for adults with autism. It is a nonprofit
organization that seeks to build up a sense of community and belonging for adults with autism who currently have no network; neither to socialize with, nor fall back on for help to further their prospects of employment and career. These adults often feel adrift and lacking in any sense of belonging or purpose. It is the goal of Spectrum Fusion to help provide this sense of belonging, community, and purpose by helping adults with autism through career networking and community organization, and it seeks to help them regardless of their current life situation. Any adult with autism can join regardless of their financial constraints.
The Reactor Room – Where the Path Begins
Spectrum Fusion helps adults find their sense of purpose through a program known as the Reactor Room. The program begins by sitting one on one with each individual who joins, and getting a sense of just what they want to do with their lives and where their talents, skills, and preferences lie. This preliminary process often takes several weeks, but once a clear picture of the individual and what direction they wish to take is achieved, the program gathers up people in the professional sectors that the member wishes to break into and helps to create an action plan and a professional network that the member can work with to better achieve their goals. Through this collaboration, the adults with autism find purpose working in fields that they are competent with and enjoy doing. What’s more, future aspirations of Spectrum Fusion include helping to build up communities of adults with autism so that they can better socialize with people they relate to more easily, helping them to gain the sense of belonging they so direly lack. Spectrum Fusion is still a young organization but it has already achieved successes with the reactor room program, helping a few young adults find a path to achieving their goals and become a stronger part of the community. As the organization grows it will be able to help more and more people across the country and better the quality of life for thousands of adults on the spectrum.
For more information about Spectrum Fusion and its Reactor Room program, please visit www.SpectrumFusion.org.