Employment and Post-Secondary Educational Activities for Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders During the Transition to Adulthood

Taylor and Seltzer (2011) conducted a study with 66 adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who had recently exited high school in an effort to predict quality of life measures.  Taylor and Seltzer divided their study of autistic individuals who did and did not have a comorbid intellectual disability.  Their study had three aims:  First, a detailed list of occupational and rehabilitational activities was compiled for each subject.  Secondly, participants were divided based on IQ (those with and without an intellectual disability); and lastly participants were divided based on socioeconomic status ranging from family income under 10k per year to over 160K per year.  The results of their study indicated that participants who were competitively employed were underemployed in that none were working full time and most were in menial jobs but had the highest level of independence and prognosis for reasonable adult outcomes.  Those with an intellectual disability, often served in a sheltered workshop or day support program, were often engaged in activities but had poor adult outcomes based on limited independence and behavioral issues.  Surprising, the study illustrates that those without an intellectual disability were the least active and had the poorest outcomes of all participants.  Taylor and Seltzer hypothesize this to be a result of our human services systems not being able to adequately support individuals with ASD who do not have an intellectual disability.  As a result, there exists a middle subset of individuals with ASD who have the potential to “fall through the cracks” -- those who are not disabled enough for services but who are also not able to function independently for a variety of reasons.   On a promising note, however, the study indicates that more individuals with ASD are seeking some type of post-secondary education.  Typically these individuals had no comorbid secondary intellectual disability and although statistically it is below the national average of 62-69% of post secondary education matriculation, a rate of 50% seems an optimistic outcome for individuals with ASD who do not have an intellectual disability.  Lastly, with regard to socio economic status, individuals with ASD who did not have an intellectual disability and were not actively engaged were typically from the families with the highest income (100-119K mean), those with an intellectual disability in adult day supports and sheltered employment were from the lowest income (60-70K mean), and those in post secondary education, competitive and supported employment were from families in the middle range of income (70-100K mean).