As more children with autism are reaching adulthood, there is a growing need for job services that help these young people find and keep jobs, according to a new study at Michigan State University (MSU).
Each year, around 50,000 people with autism spectrum disorder turn 18 years old in the U. S., and these transition youth (those shifting from high school to adulthood) represent the largest group seeking vocational employment services in the growing autism population.
“More focus should be put on the transition population with autism spectrum disorder, in addition to children and the adult population,” said Dr. Connie Sung, an MSU assistant professor, who co-authored two studies on the subject in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
“There’s a huge need for both vocational services and better coordination between the high schools and the vocational rehabilitation system to bridge the gaps.”
Still, transition youth with autism are the least likely to get jobs, said Sung, and those who don’t find work are at greater risk of sitting at home and developing secondary issues such as low self-esteem and depression.
For one study, Sung and colleagues observed 5,681 people with autism who used vocational employment services. Despite being the largest group, only 47 percent of transition youth, or those aged 18 and younger, secured employment after receiving services (compared to 55 percent for those aged 19-25 and 61 percent for those 26 and older). This held true even though all participants had prior work experience.
“These children will grow and become adults, and what we realize is that more and more adults with autism spectrum disorder are facing significant issues with employment,” Sung said.
In the next study, the researchers looked at gender differences among 1,696 transition youth with autism when it came to finding employment. Males, in particular, had a difficult time securing a job when they also had anxiety or depression. Not surprisingly, they benefited more from guidance and counseling.
“When working with males, special attention should be paid to the unique gender differences and their effects on employment,” the researchers said. “Specifically, providing vocational counseling and guidance to teach interpersonal and behavioral skills are especially important.”
It’s also important to help young people secure internships or jobs before they leave high school, said Sung, and to emphasize that work experience when looking for work in the transition phase.
Source: Michigan State University