I have known a few older adults with autism, undiagnosed and seen as able and capacitated, since receiving the letter in the photo in 2009. This was mailed to me from a woman "running out of money." Her 92 year old mother had died about a year prior, leaving her some cash and the belief that her typed stories and pencil drawings would bring her income. She had about $15 to her name, a typewriter, and some ideas she spent hours and hours each day putting on paper. She walked through the woods to the store when her cousin left $20 at the bottom of her steps now and then; he'd been raised to "leave her alone, she is extremely shy and 'different.' "
Since then, a small team of us have been on what is sometimes a very intense journey with these individuals. Lacking medical records due to their fear of people (including helping professionals) and since autism was not diagnosed when they were young, they fall between the cracks.
Why? The adult system does not see them as disabled. They can walk to the store and back but cannot decide what foods need refrigeration, and will walk the same route no matter if a snowdrift is in the way and they fall into the road. They can write a check yet have zero income. They could call 911 in an emergency but have no phone. They can calculate the calorie count of their limited food, but if running short, will simply sit still to conserve energy. The woman who wrote the letter in my cover photo was collecting rainwater for drinking when I met her. There is never a Plan B. Autism does not let the brain come up with one.
Living on the edge like this is an American freedom, a civil right. These are not reportable situations to any authority. There is no heating assistance, no subsidized housing, no water, electric, or gas payment agreement if you have no income. Things just get shut off and that is 100% legal. As I've been told innumerable times "we all have the right to make poor choices." Protective Services cannot help unless we can prove abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
I am walking to raise money specifically for a new "Indigent Fund" in our office. This will be used only in specific emergency situations where we need to keep the heat on and water coming in until other services can be arranged. Food supplies more easily arranged thanks to food pantries. But it takes some creativity to keep the lights on.
We live in the second-oldest county in America. I often wonder how many more of these people are out there.