The first question I asked when learning that my son Ryan had an autism spectrum disorder was “What would his future look like?” Up until then, I presumed that he would attend the University of Notre Dame, as my father, brother, sister and cousins had. This dream was probably not possible, but what would happen when Ryan graduates high school? Now that Ryan is 18 and a senior in high school, we continue to address the same question.
Approximately 50,000 adolescents with ASD will turn 18 years old this year in the United States. This is the first wave of children who were identified with autism in the early 90s. These young people are in their senior year of high school and are considering postsecondary education, training or employment.
The Journal of Pediatrics released a study this week called “Postsecondary Education and Employment Among Youth with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.” They paint a grim outlook for our young people. Data was gathered from a national sample of parents, guardians and adults with ASD.
Youth with ASD had poor postsecondary employment and education, especially in the first two years after high school. More than 50% of the youth had no job experience, college or technical education. Seven years later 35% of the adults with ASD still had no paid employment or education beyond high school. Even young adults with intellectual disabilities had higher employment rates than our adults with ASD.
What are we going to do?
- Transition planning must change or we can expect the number of unemployed/underemployed to spiral.
- We must do more to educate parents about transition planning and why it is of utmost importance. I tell parents that elementary school is not too early to start thinking about the future.
- Every business could be a potential employer for a person with ASD. Through supported employment, individuals are matched to jobs so that it is a win-win for both the employer and the employee. What businesses do you know that may be possible sources for employment?
- We must reach out to our state and federal legislators and appeal to them for funding for adults with ASD. Unfortunately, in many states, once a person graduates from high school or turns 21, funding for services disappears.
Today we recognize the critical importance of intervention for children with ASD. This same commitment must be extended to adults with ASD. This must become a national priority.
Great post. A national study is about to be released in Australia showing how all of issues you’ve mentioned impact on young adults with autism. Young adults simply need better and more effective support.
I would be very interested in reading this study and sharing with others. I would appreciate if you could send me the link when it comes out.
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