NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The number of people with autism is reaching record numbers.
Experts say over the next decade half a million will enter adulthood, and face a number of issues, including finding a job.
It’s a crisis that a Manhattan school is tackling head on, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Tuesday.
Pranav Vaish is a budding artist, a filing extraordinaire.
“Yes, I do love doing office work,” Vaish said.
And legally, he’s an adult.
He is on the autism spectrum. He’ll finish school at 21. This year, his family had to make tough decisions to prepare for his adult future, like making his parents and two older sisters his guardians.
“We have to start preparing him towards a work environment because he’s capable of working,” mother Anu Vaish said. “Training him for travel, so that he can take the subway around New York City for a couple of years. It’s a work in progress.
“I bring him to the barber and say, ‘Now go home,’ and I call the doorman and say, ‘Call me if Pranav is not there in five minutes,'” Anu Vaish added.
Experts say that it’s crucial to start learning these life skills way before a child turns 18.
“Transition in New York state starts at age 15 or earlier,” author Gary Mayerson said.
Pranav is one of 50,000 Americans that experts say will soon graduate into a workforce where 85% of people on the autism spectrum don’t have a job. Mayerson recently wrote a book on people with autism becoming independent, titled, “Autism’s Declaration of Independence.”
“It’s better for society, in general. We’ll spend less money on this population and that’s the way it should be,” Mayerson said.
Entering adulthood was the focus of a conference organized Tuesday by the Manhattan Children’s Center, a private school for children ages 5 to 21 on the spectrum.
“When it comes to health care and whether or not it’s going to be Medicaid or whether or not you have private insurance,” financial advisor Jeannie Jackson said.
“When they’re 11 or 12 we want to see what are they interested in,” CEO Abby Weiss said.
“I obviously worry. My husband and I, we worry about his future on a daily basis, if not on a minute-by-minute basis,” Anu Vaish said.
But she said with the support of Manhattan Children’s Center and Pranav’s caring and positive attitude, she’s confident her son will defy the odds and find full-time work.
Pranav already has several years of internships under his belt, and he is currently taking a coding course. He also recently spent time on a chicken farm and is considering a career in agriculture.