HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The transition into adulthood is a pivotal point of anyone’s life and people with autism experience their own challenges at this stage.
Speech Language Pathologist Brooke Sorrells explained to News 19 that high school and college years can be particularly hard for people with autism.
“In high school, or even in college, when kids get to that age and they realize that time can be difficult,” Sorrells explained. “Or if they do have autism they may struggle with those interactions. It can make it really difficult for them to feel accepted and to find a group that they fit in well with.”
Sorrells works with people who have autism building up their social skills. She told News 19 that these skills can make a big difference during that transition into adulthood.
“You might understand body language, you might understand facial expressions, gestures, you understand those based on the context of the situation and what’s expected,” Sorrells said. “Those are really difficult for people with Autism or any social communication deficit to interpret and follow.”
With adulthood comes college, dating, and careers. So, an organization in Huntsville works with people who have autism to prepare for these life events. The owner of Open Door, David Stidger, told News 19 that their goal is to develop the social skills that can help build friendships.
“We like to focus on what we call the science of making friends,” Stidger explained. “So, what we focus on a lot is remote communication skills, following up if someone sends you a text, we have a GroupMe that they all are on where they plan their own outings together.”
In addition to building relationships, Open Door helps prepare them for the workforce through mock interviews and team-building activities. Stidger said this builds their confidence.
“We kind of see them feel that this isn’t that hard, this isn’t impossible, I can do this, I’m of value,” Stidger explained.
Stidger told News 19 that their goal isn’t to place them with a company and then move on, but instead to provide them the tools and skillset to continuously navigate the workforce. But, he also hopes employers and members of the community continue to take steps toward inclusion.
“I like the fact that autism awareness has turned into autism acceptance,” Stidger explained. “It’s time for autism action, integration, and inclusion. We can talk about it all day long, we can host walks, but the end goal is action-oriented things.”