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Monday 26th August 2019

Young adults with autism lack jobs

15th May 2012

Seven years after finishing school, one in three young autistic adults in the United States is still out of work, with no college education, paid work or technical training, a new study has found.


The results show that people with a diagnosis of autism are worse off than people with many other disabilities, including those with learning disabilities.

Experts are calling on the government to address the issue, as around 500,000 children with autism will reach adulthood during the next decade.

The study was carried out before the height of the recession brought rising unemployment, and experts say that even young people with no disabilities are finding it hard to find paid work.

One 21-year-old man from New Jersey, Ian Wells, wants a job but has so far only been able to find unpaid internships. He currently works for no money at a local factory in the hope of building a resume.

According to his mother, Barbara, Ian has good mechanical skills but has trouble with speaking and reading. She is very worried about his long-term employment prospects.

The study analysed data on young people with autism from 2007-08, which showed that 35% of them still had no experience of a job, no college education or technical training, seven years after the date of their graduation from high school.

The data came from a nationwide study carried out for the Department of Education on children who received special education services. It included around 2,000 young adults with one of four types of disabilities, including 500 with autism.

Writing in the online edition of the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that while things got slightly better for young autistic adults with age, the figures compared very poorly with similar data about young adults with other disabilities.

According to the researchers, 26% of mentally disabled young adults, 7% of young adults with speech and language problems, and 3% of those with learning disabilities were in a similar situation, seven years after leaving school.

It is possible that many of those with autism also have some of the other disabilities with which they were compared.

According to Paul Shattuck, an assistant professor at Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work in St. Louis, the results represent the biggest study so far on the issue of employment and autism, and are a major cause for concern.

He said there was a large cohort of young people with an autism diagnosis who were fast approaching adulthood, and careful planning was needed around how to avoid a "scary situation."

Rates of autism have been rising in the United States, with around one in 88 children receiving the diagnosis currently.

According to Peter Bell, vice president for programmes and services at the controversial advocacy group Autism Speaks, employment of people with autism is a huge issue which is only likely to get worse.

Special education policy specialist Carol Schall said the study had confirmed previous research showing the sorts of difficulties faced by young people with autism.

She said it highlighted a need for better vocational training services for special education students throughout the system of American public schools.

Schall said high school students with autism could acquire work-related skills, including social skills, but that they needed a much higher degree of intensity than mainstream students.

In her research programme at the Virginia Commonwealth University, children are taught a range of practical skills and appropriate behaviour, and preliminary research has shown that such training has helped them to find work and to stay in work.

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