What will the next 40 years bring us? The next 80 years? Our tendency is to take a snapshot of our current situation and project that into the future, but if we think about it, that’s not how it really works. For instance, when my brother, Scott was born in 1961, his life expectancy was less than 40 years. Thanks to medical advances he will be 52 years old this year and has outlived both of our parents.
We often get caught up in the way things are now, which are rarely what we want them to be; especially now, with the rate of autism rising, group home development at a standstill, and Medicaid cuts with no end in sight. In light of everything that is happening, particularly in the autism community, is there any reason to be optimistic for the future? I believe the answer is, “Yes.”
I believe this for two simple reasons. First, technology and medical advances are nearly on a vertical slope and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Second, baby boomers are here to stay, at least for a few more decades. This means that the disabled population and baby boomers will be competing for the same pool of money, forcing government to deal with a crisis.
- The decreases in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates will force hospitals to abandon their archaic systems of service, paving the way for telemedicine to become a reality. Other technological advances, such as clothing that can monitor heart rate and other body functions, will contribute to this new reality.
- Many of the causes of autism will be discovered and autism will become preventable.
- Treatments for many types of autism will be developed so as to ameliorate the symptoms associated with it, enabling many autistic individuals to become self-supportive. As a result, the Surrogate’s Court will need to reevaluate many guardianships which are currently considered to be life-long.
- Technologically smart living environments will be built allowing more individuals with disabilities to live independently with support.
- The same technologically smart living environments will allow group homes to operate with less staff, resulting in a decrease in annual operating expenses and making them more affordable to both parents and state government.
- Transportation issues for both the elderly and the disabled will be affected in a positive way by inventions such as the robotic car, already being tested in Nevada.
While we face many challenges as a result of the current fiscal crisis, we should not lose sight of the fact that where there is challenge, there is opportunity. In my next blog, I will provide you with Action Steps to prepare yourself to take advantage of future opportunities so that your special needs child can have the fullest life possible.