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The coming tsunami: children with autism reaching adulthood

There are a lot of resources available for children with autism, but what happens when they grow up?
adult autism

"You know, we spend our lives in the first 21 years of their lives getting our children ready to go out in the community. The reality is right now is our community is not ready for children like Alyssa," said Barbara Burnett back in 2010, speaking about her daughter, who has autism.

That void is now filled by the Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center, which opened a year ago in Bothell.

"So much has changed. I mean when we started last year with our pilot, we had eight students. We're working with 60 a week now," said Tammy Mitchell, program director at the center.

Barbara says she's grateful to Seattle Children's and all the benefactors who made this happen.

"It's amazingly humbling to see the difference it's made in so many family's lives," she said.

Ben Moore has been with the program from the beginning.

"I think a lot of it is just getting out and meeting other people who share your interests and who are more like yourself," he said.

Classes range from art to life skills to social opportunities.

Tammy says education here is a two-way street.

"We've learned you don't set limitations on these adults because I think every day here they're proving they're going to surpass them," she said.

Ben has this advice.

"Don't see autistic people as burdens. Don't see them as defective because we're not. In a lot of ways were just like neuro-typical people," he said.

At this place, it's all about acceptance, the freedom to be themselves and the opportunity to have fun.

"It's our dream to the 100th degree," said Barbara.

The Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center caters to the full autism spectrum, from high-functioning college-bound adults to those who will need a lifetime of care.