Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari on April 23, 2018
Joe Cubells, MD, PhD Attending Psychiatrist, Emory Autism Center
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I think I’m excited. I’m not sure what the future would hold.
But I’m sure that something good will come out of it. My name is Brett Cathcart and I’m 30 years old.
When we were told that there were some behavior problems that he had and he might be autistic,
I never felt that he was going to be someone that couldn’t grow up and be on his own.
I’m a bagger. I bag groceries for customers. Sometimes I help take them out to the car.
I was hoping they would give me more stuff to do like stock shelves, because you could get paid more.
I wrote a letter to ask if they had any new positions open, but I didn’t get any. It’s a disappointment.
Autism is traditionally called a childhood development disorder when actually it’s a lifelong disorder.
The person has the right to stay in the public school system until the age of 22.
And then the instant the second hand crosses the 12 at midnight on their 22nd birthday, the school system drops these folks like a hot stone.
Very little is on the other side of that 22-year divide, what is sometimes referred to as a “22-year cliff.”
The rates of employment are anywhere from 20% to 50%. So in other words, 80% unemployment.
There’s not the social services out there to help a child like this like people think there are.
And without the strong family background and the financial wherewithal, I think a child -- young adults become lost in society.
Did you work really good this morning?
Yes, I did.
Okay, because Mary Anne will ask you.
What will we do with the tidal wave that is hitting the beach from the 1990s so-called “Autism Epidemic?”
If we don’t figure it out now, it’s going to become a catastrophe in my personal view.
Hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear from parents in the clinic, “Doctor, what happens when we get too old?
I’m just not going to be able to meet his needs. Then what do we do?” And I don’t have an answer for them. It’s frightening.
When you’re there watching them grow up and you know what they’re capable of doing and what they’re capable of being
and someone doesn’t see that same vision for them, you feel like you want to be there with them forever. But you can’t.
It’s like any other child that you have. You have to let him go. It’s hard to let somebody go when they have a problem.
I mean we’ve had the conversation, my parents and I, that if something would happen to them, would I be okay with taking him on?
And I’ve come to terms with that. I absolutely would. There’s a possibility of maybe Uncle Brett living in the studio apartment downstairs or something like that.
He runs out of things to do in his free time.
Sometimes making friends is hard to do. You can’t find the right person to go along with.
I’m struggling with trying to move out and find another job. I’ll be able to work full-time. I can get my own place. And once I’m on my own, I’m happy.
I finally found Emory had an Autism Center, which I never knew before.
The Emory Autism Center Nightlife Program was specifically designed to begin to meet the needs of young adults on the spectrum.
One of our groups is the Nightlife group. It is for individuals 25 to 35 years of age.
And that’s where we are tonight. Each Monday night, we’re in this apartment.
We’re cooking. We’re having activities, games, anything that we can do to help foster social interactions.
We’re going to see which group can remember the most about each other.
There are not a lot of programs like this. More are coming out.
We do activities and plan meals and create projects to do. It’s really, really fun. It helps you get together with people and you do things.
It helps me with social skills. It also helps me like communicate better with my parents and stuff like that.
Being with other people who are my age, trying to make acquaintances of friendships.
I've got people’s numbers and stuff and we talk about our interests.
And it’s helping me sharpen, to understand them better and understand the world’s perspective better.
In the field we’re fond of saying, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
People with autism are every bit as variable as people with brown hair.
When we see, for example, folks in the program exchanging cellphone numbers so that they can get hold of each other when they're not in the session,
well, that’s a success if a person has made a friend.
I worry about Brett’s future a little bit. I just kind of have high expectations or high hopes for him.
In ten years I would hope he would be on his own, have his own place and have a full-time job that he likes.
I hope for him to have a part of his dream, and a friend.
Yeah, at least one good friend.
I think I will be on my own. I’ll be completely successful and I think I might raise a family.
I think my life will be just fine. I’ll be a successful person.