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Autistic adults often have more autonomy over their goals and decision-making and there are a variety of paths that they may choose to take. However, most commonly, the focus is on establishing a sense of independence, selecting a postsecondary option, such as education or work, and navigating relationships with family, friends, and/or romantic partners. In some cases, parents or family members may continue to be involved in providing care and guidance. The transition to adulthood may also bring about a myriad of emotions for parents; thus, it is important to focus on the needs of the individual and their family. 

What Should My Child Be Doing As An Adult?

During your child’s younger years, they may be focusing on developmental skills and goals. As adults, the focus may shift to specific skills relative to a particular setting, such as work, postsecondary education, and home. Some autistic adults may not need support related to working, living independently, finding a social circle or network, or dating or finding a romantic partner. Others may need assistance in these areas. Some adults may be happy and well-adjusted, and others may experience mental health concerns, such as anxiety or depression. Types of support and help can vary and may look different depending on the individual. Many factors contribute to the degree of support an autistic adult may need, including language level, communication ability, cognitive level, and mental health. 

What services might my adult child/family want or need?

An autistic adult’s services should fit with their age, goals, needs, and individual/family values. An autistic adult who has difficulty with self-help or work skills may need vocational rehabilitation services, while an autistic adult with anxiety or depression may need mental health services. See below for descriptions of services and targeted areas for this age group.

Vocational Rehabilitation is a state program that helps people with physical, sensory, mental, emotional, or learning disabilities get or keep a job. For additional information on how to apply, see this frequently asked questions sheet:
Vocational Rehabilitation FAQ's

Work Inclusion Now (WIN), an Autism Speaks initiative, was created to connect autistic individuals with employers who are seeking more equitable and inclusive work environments.
Work Inclusion Now Info

Inclusion Works is a North Carolina initiative designed to promote inclusive competitive work environments for individuals with developmental disabilities. For more information, visit:
Inclusion Works

Resources that may be available to students with different disabilities, including autism.
College Resources for Students with Disabilities

Learn more about the transition to college for students with intellectual disabilities.

As autistic adults make decisions about their next steps, there are several options for attending a postsecondary institution, including but not limited to, four-year universities, community colleges, and vocational schools. For information that will aid autistic adults in selecting the right path for them, visit:
Postsecondary Educational Opportunities Guide

TEACCH’s T-STEP Program is a collaboration between the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, UNC TEACCH Autism Program, and community colleges across North Carolina. The goal of this free service is to teach 16-21-year-olds skills that will aid in their successful transition to employment and postsecondary education. 

Some adults may need continued support with daily living skills and mental wellness as well as navigating social situations and services. Several services may help in these areas. 

For adults who need help with daily living skills or organization and planning, they may consider Occupational Therapy:

See below to find occupational therapists in your area who may have some knowledge of autism. You can enter “occupational therapists” and your zip code to search providers in your area.
Autism Society of NC Resource Directory Autism Speaks Resource Guide

For adults who need help with social situations, organization and planning, or self-help skills, they may consider Mental Health Therapy

Autism Society of NC Resource Directory Autism Speaks Resource Guide

The Work Together NC program focuses on adults, but may also be a resource for finding mental health providers in your area:
Work Together NC - Find Services

The 211 website has a searchable database for providers in your area. To find mental health providers in your area, enter your zip code and “mental health”
Search for Mental Health Providers

Navigating services. A care coordinator/navigator helps families access services, get needed help, and communicate with other providers. A social worker may also serve this role in some settings.

Resource and Referral specialists are available at each Regional Center of the UNC TEACCH Program:
TEACCH Resource and Referral Specialists

Resource and Referral specialists are available through the Autism Society of North Carolina:
ASNC Resource Specialists

Care navigators may also be available through a family’s MCO or health plan. For families who have managed Medicaid, you can find your local MCO here:
NC DHHS: LME/MCO Directory

Some autistic adults may choose to be involved in their own support groups. For information about support groups:
Support Groups specific to autistic adults in NC

Despite being legally considered an adult, some autistic adults may be able to live independently, or they may need support. Housing options vary from remaining in the home with a parent or caregiver, to residential options. To aid in making these decisions, some autistic adults may benefit from the support of their parent(s) or a caregiver, in the form of guardianship.

For more information about types of guardianship and the process, visit:
Guardianship toolkit

To learn more about supported living and to find agencies that support adults living needs, visit:Residential options toolkit

Where can services be delivered?

Services can be delivered in different locations. Some services are delivered in the residential/home setting, while some providers may work in a clinic, and the individual may need to travel to get services. Services may also be delivered within the community. Telehealth is another way services can be provided if the health plan will cover this option. For autistic adults, it is important to consider their goals and whether telehealth is a practical option. Click below to find service providers in your area and remember to ask about the possible locations. 

Service providers in your area who have knowledge of autism

What agencies provide services in my area?

The Autism Society of North Carolina has a searchable database to learn more about providers and agencies that provide intervention for autistic adults in your area:

Autism Society of North Carolina

If you have a Medicaid insurance plan, your MCO (Managed Care Organization) can provide care management. Find your local MCO contact here:

MCO Contacts

Vocational Rehabilitation provides employment services for individuals with disabilities, including autism. Learn more about Vocational Rehabilitation:
Vocational Rehabilitation

For adults who may be attending college, there are often community support services available. Learn more about student support services for adults enrolling in the North Carolina Community College System:
NC Community College System

For providers that focus on adults and adolescents:

How do I pay for services?

There are different ways to pay for services. Health plans or health insurance often fund part or all the cost of certain services. Although it may be expensive, individuals may also have the option to pay for the service themselves. If an individual is not able to pay for a service, there may be grants available to help cover the cost. 

Many individuals have health care coverage. This may be Medicaid, Medicare, or a private health plan such as Blue Cross Blue Shield or Aetna. There are a few things to know about health plans. There is a medical plan that covers medical services such as primary care services, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. There is also a mental health plan that covers psychological testing and therapy to treat mental health conditions. There are also autism or ABA benefits, which are a carve-out of the mental health plan. While all health plans have to offer ABA benefits in North Carolina, not all individuals have the coverage. To learn more about your health plan benefits, contact your health plan and ask about ABA benefits. 

Learn more about Medicaid funding in North Carolina:
Medicaid Funding

While Medicare primarily serves senior citizens (65+), a person under age 65 becomes eligible for Medicare 24 months after they begin to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Learn more about Medicare funding in North Carolina:
Medicare Funding in NC

Some programs are publicly funded and there is no cost to the individual. Adults who have a developmental disability often qualify for these programs, if they are in the age range. 

Learn more about SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and additional funding resources:
SSI and additional funding resources

Visit SSI page directly and learn how to apply for services

Vocational Rehabilitation provides employment services for individuals with disabilities, including autism. Learn more about Vocational Rehabilitation:
Vocational Rehabilitation

The Innovations Waiver is designed to provide funding to support individuals with disabilities in the community. Eligibility is based on an individual having a developmental disability and level of need. It is not based on income. There is a long waitlist and applying early is recommended. In addition, it may open the door for other services and support. Information on Innovations Waiver and how to apply:
Innovations Waiver Information

What community programs may be helpful?

Many museums, aquariums, and parks in North Carolina have sensory-friendly days.
Sensory-Friendly Activities

Special Olympics North Carolina is one of the largest Special Olympics programs in the world with nearly 40,000 registered athletes who train and compete in year-round programs in 20 different sports.
Special Olympics Information

This website does not endorse any particular programs, books, or authors. We intend to provide some resources that may be helpful to families along their journey.

BFAST is a UNC TEACCH Autism Program project in collaboration with the Autism Society of NC and the Frank
Porter Graham Child Development Institute made possible through funding from the C Felix Harvey Foundation

BFAST partnership logos - UNC TEACCH Autism Program logo, Autism Society of North Carolina logo, and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute