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Adults with autism are left to navigate a jarring world

Researchers turn attention to a growing population of adults with autism spectrum disorders

By
1:30pm, February 10, 2015
painting of person alone

DISCONNECTED  Australian artist Donna Williams chronicles her life with autism in paintings like “To Dare.” Researchers are beginning to study ways to help adults with autism navigate independently, get jobs and find friendship. 

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“I don’t look like I have a disability, do I?” Jonas Moore asks me. I shake my head. No, I say — he does not. Bundled up in a puffy green coat in a drafty Starbucks, Moore, 35 and sandy-haired, doesn’t stand out in the crowd seeking refuge from the Wisconsin cold. His handshake is firm and his blue eyes meet mine as we talk. He comes across as intelligent and thoughtful, if perhaps a bit reserved. His disability — autism — is invisible.

That’s part of the problem, says Moore. Like most people with autism spectrum disorders, he finds relationships challenging. In the past, he has been quick to anger and has had what he calls “meltdowns.” Those who don’t know he has autism can easily misinterpret his actions. “People think that when I do misbehave I’m somehow intentionally trying to be a jerk,” Moore says. “That’s just not the case.”

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