This week, I would like to shift gears and discuss young adults with autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Perhaps you have or you know someone who has an adult child who is graduating from high school or college, who comes under this category. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest numbers, 1 in 88 kids have been diagnosed with autism. Young adult life both in and out of college can be particularly daunting for individuals with ASD.
A recent study that came out in the journal Pediatrics underlines this point. As a long running study, it looked at how a population of 600 individuals with ASD compared to 400 individuals with such diagnoses as: learning disabilities, mental retardation, and impaired language or speech. All individuals were receiving special education services. It found that only a little more than one third of individuals previously diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder had gone on to college and only 55 percent had held paying jobs, within their sample study. Additionally, the same study found that the first two years post high school experience were particularly hard, with less than half of the young people with ASD in the study having had any work experience. Compared to their counterparts, individuals with ASD fared better than individuals with mental retardation, but not as well as individuals with the other above mentioned disabilities, when it came to going to college.
One of the study’s chief conclusions was that individuals with ASD needed increased assistance with transitioning out of school and into college life and/or with gaining employment. In Western New York, we are fortunate to have many agencies dedicated to working with individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities. One such agency is the Parent Network of Western New York. They are a local hub for advocacy, education, empowerment, and service linkage for individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities. The Autism Society of Western New York and Summit Educational Resources are two other agencies within the area that specifically focus on ASD. They provide everything from case management and parent support groups to assistance with educational advocacy, the transitional years, and independent living. Individuals with ASD and their families can face many challenges, with their opportunities. But they can certainly be empowered by such formal supports in their community. As the old adage goes, sometimes it takes a village.
Happy Father’s Day!