Autumn 2010: Of Note

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Adults with Autism ‘Get a Life’

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Social nuances are challenging for Andrew Grimes. Diagnosed with autism at age three, the twenty-six-year-old supply technician has struggled to form lasting friendships, preferring solitary hobbies such as drawing and solving puzzles.

“The fact is that children with autism grow up to be adults with autism. It really is a lifelong disorder,” says Associate Professor of Human Genetics Joseph Cubells. “Sadly, many end up very lonely.”

But through the Emory Autism Resource Center’s Get a Life program, Grimes hangs out with a college student volunteer, practicing the finer points of male bonding. Paired with volunteers by age and interests, adults with Asperger’s or autism go on weekly outings to play sports, watch movies, help out at other community organizations, or just talk.

The staff recruits volunteers—including many Emory students—who spend at least two hours a week with the participant. The program is in need of volunteers older than twenty-five, as well, to spend time with similar-aged clients, according to Toni Thomas, program manager for Family and Adult Services.

In addition, the center’s Adult Community Assistance Program provides ongoing services to about forty adults with autism, including individualized services, social skills workshops, and monthly social gatherings hosted by Emory’s chapter of Best Buddies International, which pairs students with people with developmental disabilities.

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