A report released by A.J. Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University on national indicators on autism and adult transitions reveals that one in three adults with autism spectrum disorder are disconnected from school and work. The report was announced on April 21, 2015, and was published online.
Researchers say that current research, public awareness, and public policy focuses on the needs of children with autism, and say that too little is known about the experiences and outcomes of young autistic youth as they mature into adulthood. They say that families, service providers, policy makers, and community leaders need to know how autistic youth transitioned into different situations such as their living arrangements, social interaction, post-secondary education, employment, and the state of their physical and mental health.
“When it comes to understanding how well our nation is helping youth affected by autism, our situation is like driving a car through the fog with no dashboard,” said Paul Shattuck, PhD, an associate professor at Drexel. “We know we’re moving, but we do not have many indicators to tell us how fast we are going, whether we’re getting close to our goals, or what kind of mileage we are getting from the resources fueling our trip.”
The data for the report came from the Institute’s Life Course Outcomes Research Program. Researchers followed the experiences and outcomes of autistic youth from high school to their early 20s. Adult outcomes and disconnection measures examined the relationships between life, play, and work. Many young adults with autism experienced a dramatic decrease in access to services as they transitioned into adulthood.
- 37 percent of young autistic adults were disconnected during their early 20s because they did not continue their education after high school or get a job while among young adults with other disabilities, less than eight percent were disconnected
- Approximately 26 percent of autistic young adults and 28 percent of those who were unemployed and not in school did not receive any services such as support to live more independently, continue their education, or become employed
- 58 percent had a paying job outside the home between high school and their early 20s, a rate far lower than young adults with other types of disabilities, and those who worked part-time had low wages
- 36 percent attended post-secondary education such as colleges between high school and their early 20s
- Approximately one in four were isolated socially because they did not see or talk to friends and had not been invited to social activities in the past year
- Some but not all autistic youth eventually lived independently with or without some support, with one in five living away from their parents
- More than 60 percent of the youth had two or more health or mental health conditions in addition to autism
- Nearly half of the youth were victims of bullying in high school
- 27 percent of adolescents had some type of wandering behavior
- Transition planning was often delayed and only 58 percent of the youth had a transition plan by the federally-required age
“This is the most comprehensive report to date describing what we know about young adults with autism as a whole and across the various parts of their lives. Yet, it represents only a fraction of what we need to know. Huge gaps remain,” said Anne M. Roux, MPH, research scientist at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute and lead author of the report.
“While the picture looks bleak, we found that some of those who have the most significant levels of challenges do go on to find jobs and attend further education,” said Shattuck. “A critical next step is to figure out what facilitates connections to outcomes and what helps people to continue to succeed across their early adult years.”