Niam, a chubby boy, straight brown hair, tall and odd in his mannerism, comes across as someone who has very little ability to be able to cope in societal pressures of employment. He is giggly, full of anxiety and unable to control his impulses to be naughty, his charming and delightful side peeking through, with a smile as charming as Bradley Cooper, huggable and deliberately deceitful.
A boy like Niam appears to not know what he wants, navigation of society and social surroundings are difficult, as the world has imposed norms not understandable to him or his peers, he has deflected all notions of negativity , and impressively shown his capabilities despite the walls of barriers surrounding him. His understanding of the success of his paintings, while limited to “It has been sold”, “ learning banking” and painting to calm his anxiety, would probably have the best CEO, want to give written instructions to increase overall business understanding and profitability.
Far from a poster boy of youths with disabilities, Niam has managed to showcase his talents, his words, expressions and outlook in life, in a medium, that is appreciated by some, understood by all, against a non-tolerant world, that has left this vulnerable segment of society unemployed and underemployed. Youth and adults in this segment require additional support systems, a change in mindset, and a jump toward removing the stigma of Low Functioning Autism + Mid Functioning Autism = A Burden on Society, a curve that slopes downward with no hope in sight of a formula to change the curve upwards.
Economically not much research has been conducted in the cost of training, creating and implementing a support system, and follow-up, for this segment of society, to bring them from underemployment and unemployed to employed. The thought rings alarm bells of expense. Reality is the cost of supporting an adult from 18 to the end of life , is probably more expensive than the implementation of programs to employ youths and adults. It seems reasonable a more productive and independent society is financially more stable than one with higher unemployment rates and a dependent society.
Programs of training and support should be designed at the Federal Level and implemented by businesses and corporations at the local level. Today, more citizens than ever are interested in doing good. A plan, if put together properly, could be valued more than just dollars and cents, by placing an intrinsic value on happiness, doing good, and helping others by providing opportunity, a full-filling feeling that is not equated in monetary terms. There is no dispute education is correlated to income and employment. Creating appropriate support systems and an educational environment conducive to this segment of society will bring more Niam’s into the spotlight, of productive and contributing adults.
With one in 50 children being diagnosed with Autism, a Tsunami is underway as these children age into adulthood with aging parents, a reality that cannot be overlooked. Replacing the world of cynicism is still a dream away. Forging forward is the only option.