A recent article from the Child Mind Institute:
Autism and Employment
Young adults everywhere on the spectrum struggle to enter the work world
After working part-time her first two years of college, Debbie D. ramped up to full time along with her coursework the last two. But this admirable juggling feat left her so frazzled she would forget to eat, brush her hair or fill up her car's tank—"I ran out of gas on the highway more than a few times." So she couldn't wait to graduate in 2007, thinking that once she was able to focus on her career, life would get easier. She was wrong.
At 22, "I was in the midst of moving into my first apartment," recalls Debbie, "learning how to pay my own bills, becoming familiar with a new routine outside of the structure of school, and learning what being a professional meant." Her transition into adult life continued to challenge her executive function skills—things like planning, time management and multitasking. Meanwhile, her promotion to shift supervisor at the same human services company that had employed her throughout college exacerbated the social and sensory difficulties associated with her autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Four years after receiving her diploma, she says, "I'm still trying to learn the ropes."
Despite her struggles, Debbie is beating some very dismal odds among the young ASD population on all points of the spectrum. Caregivers and self-advocates have long had grave concerns about what the future holds for the "great wave" of children and teens diagnosed with ASD, half a million and counting, who will be aging out of the educational and support system provided by the federal Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA) over the next decade. They and their parents face the great uncertainty of adult services, post-secondary education and employment opportunities.
Their fears have been confirmed by a just-released study, the largest and most definitive to date, examining how autistics do after they transition out of high school. The study shows that two years after graduation, half of ASD young adults have no paid job experience, technical education or college. Nearly seven years out, the numbers improve but remain bleak, with one out of three having had no paid work or post-secondary education. That's a higher percentage shut out of the work world than for other disabilities, including the mentally disabled, with heightened risk of poorer outcomes for those from lower-income families and those with greater functional impairment.
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