The following MNN headline made my heart skip a beat, “Autism study: 1 in 3 young adults have trouble getting jobs.” Both of my children are on the autism spectrum and as they get older, my focus is beginning to switch from intensive early childhood therapy to figuring out how to ensure that they will be prepared to support themselves as adults.
I know that parents of children without autism are also focused on preparing their children for college but these children don’t have the extra challenge of autism to deal with. Evidently, this challenge is significant. Here are a few of the key data points from the study:
- 35 percent of high school graduates with autism did not attend college or were not employed
- 45 percent of young adults with severe autism that came from high-income families were not in school or employed
- 79 percent of young adults with severe autism that came from low-income families were not attending school nor working
These figures are frightening. School attendance and working rates of young adults with autism were even less than young adults with severe mental disabilities; that population only saw a 26 percent unemployment rate.
In my opinion, the big problem is that so many agencies focus on early childhood interventions and while I know that is an important cause as I’ve seen first-hand what intensive therapy can do for a child on the autism spectrum, children with autism grow up to be adults with autism. This is where organizations dedicated to autism awareness and assistance are dropping the ball.
There is a plethora of resources out there dedicated to the 0- to 6-year-old age group and quite a bit of support for elementary aged students. As children age into their teens and young adulthood, the availability of services severely drops off.
My hope is that as autism diagnoses continue to rise and more children grow up to be young adults with autism, there are more organizations out there offering support and services to ensure that these individuals can live happy and self-sufficient lives.