By Margarita Nahapetyan
One in three adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) do not have post-secondary education and have no paying job or technical training nearly seven years after high school graduation, says a new research. The experts found that, when it comes to work and education, autistic young people often fare much worse that young adults with other types of developmental disabilities, including those who are mentally disabled.
According to the figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 88 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder. ASDs are a group of developmental brain disorders that affect a person's ability to interact and communicate with others. ASDs range from the relatively mild form, known as Asperger's syndrome, to the severe cases of "classic" autism. And while number of people who are diagnosed with the condition is increasing every year, the scientists have not known much about how children with autism fare after graduating high school.
For the new study, researchers gathered data on 680 young autistic adults, along with nearly 1,400 youth with learning disabilities, speech or language development problems, or intellectual impairment. The data came from a nationwide study that was conducted for the Department of Education on children who received special education services. All young people aged between 19 and 23 years, and had been enrolled in special education programs while attending the school.
After a thorough analysis of the information obtained, it was revealed that when compared with young people in the three other disability categories, teenagers and young adults with autism had significantly lower rates of employment and the highest overall rates of no participation in any type of work or education. For instance, only 55 per cent of youth with ASD had paid job, when compared to 86 per cent of those who had problems with speech or language development, 94 per cent of those with a learning impairment and 69 percent of young adults with mental disability.
When it came to education, here the picture was a bit brighter. The results showed that nearly 35 per cent of children with ASD attended college for at least 2 or 4 years; 51 per cent of young adults with speech or language impairment did so, while 40 per cent of those who had a learning disability and 18 per cent of those with mental problems did. For autistic teenagers and young adults who came from lower-income families, participation rates were much lower.
This study appears to be the largest to date on the matter of employment and autism, and the results are very alarming, said Paul Shattuck, an assistant professor at Washington University's Brown School of Social Work in St. Louis, who authored the study. Part of the reason that autistic adults encounter problems after graduating high school is that a core feature of the ASD is not knowing how to properly interact socially and handle a wide variety of social situations, something that is an important part of many jobs. According to Shattuck, there is a big number of young people who have been diagnosed with ASD and who are now approaching their adulthood. Therefore, very careful planning needs to be done in order to avoid a scary situation in the future when these people will try to find their place in society, he said.
The results of the study are published in the journal Pediatrics.