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Group dedicated to helping adults w/ autism

December 29, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
One-point-five million people in the U.S. have autism. About 80 percent are under 22, and research shows most do not end up living independent lives. Some call the number of kids who will become adults with autism over the next five years an "autism tsunami." That's because most state and federal assistance programs for autism stop at age 22, leaving these young adults with no place to go.

Paul Voss, 35, has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. Through his job as a maintenance man, he earns money, independence and self esteem, things many adults with autism are missing.

"When you have Asperger's syndrome it's a struggle," said Voss.

He got his job through the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, one of the few groups devoted to adults with autism.

"It's very frustrating, you see that beautiful little child on Time Magazine but you don't realize they're going to be 24 and 37 and whatever," said Mary Meyer, a mother of an autistic adult.

Her 36-year-old daughter Susan also found work and a creative outlet through the foundation.

"You usually don't have to worry about housing for children, jobs for children. Once you get to be an adult it's a lot more complex," said Susan Meyer.

Linda Walder Fiddle started the group in memory of her son Danny, an autistic boy who suddenly died from a seizure at the age of 9.

"So that really was the inspiration, Danny's life and the fact that I realized there were few, if any, programs for adults and we need to create a different world than what existed for adults," said Walder Fiddle.

Only 3 percent of autistic adults live independently. Just 6 percent hold paid, full-time jobs. The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation helps people with all aspects of adult life, including finding an apartment, staying active and job training.

"We're very loyal, we're very trustworthy, we're very responsible," said Susan Meyer.

For Voss, the foundation provides purpose.

"Never give up on the belief that there is a place out there for you," said Voss.

The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation is based in New Jersey, but leaders are developing program models and blueprints so communities around the U.S. can launch similar programs.