Study: Adults with autism often have little opportunity

Study: Adults with autism often have little opportunity



Roughly one in 10 young adults on the autism spectrum apparently has
nothing to do all day, and many more have very limited opportunities,
according to a new study.



They aren't in school, they aren't working and they aren't receiving any job training or government-funded services, said Paul Shattuck, an associate professor at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University in Philadelphia, who helped lead a new study on young adults with autism.

"Something is pretty broken," Shattuck said.



For
years, interest in autism has been growing along with autism rates. The
condition now affects one child in 68. Most of the emphasis, though,
has been on young children on the autism spectrum.


"We've
been so focused on that end of the lifespan that it's almost as if we
forgot that these children were going to become adults and now we're at
this crisis point in the system," said Anne Roux, a research scientist
at Drexel, who helped lead the study. 




Researchers
still don't have a good understanding of what autism looks like in
adulthood, Roux said. Autism is defined by social awkwardness,
repetitive behavior and communication challenges. There's so little
known, she said, that it's not even clear how many young adults will
need services – which is what motivated her current research. 




"We literally have almost no data about anyone beyond age 25," or how needs will change as they age, she said.



About
half the young adults on the spectrum have severe impairments in
conversational skills and functional abilities, according to the
research, suggesting that at least that many will continue to need
services into adulthood.




But Noah Britton, a Boston
psychology professor and autism job counselor, said even people on the
spectrum who are fully capable of working need help negotiating the job
market. 




Britton, who is on the spectrum himself,
said he sees clients all the time who are intellectually capable of work
but haven't learned the skills they would need to hold down a job – or
even land one in the first place. 




Job interviews are
terrible for most people on the spectrum because of their social
awkwardness, said Britton, also a member of a four-man comedy troupe
called Asperger's Are Us.
"Out of all the ways neurotypicals control the world, I think this is
the biggest," Britton said, referring to non-autistic people as
neurotypicals. 




There should be hope even for young
people who look on paper like they're doing nothing, said Lydia Wayman,
27, of Pittsburgh. At 21, a doctor told Wayman she would never hold a
job, despite her nearly 4.0 grade-point average in college. Now, with a
master's degree in writing, she works part-time for an autism advocacy
group, managing the website and mentoring younger women. She has regular
editing assignments, and she's co-writing a novel that includes a
character on the spectrum.


"It's not really for anybody else to decide the value of my experience," Wayman said.

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