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Access to Services

access to services“Falling off a cliff” is the common expression used to describe what happens to people on the autism spectrum upon leaving high school and aging out of special education services. Many do not qualify for adult services even if they qualified for help during high school. Most do not receive the vocational and life skills services they may need to become employed or live apart from their parents. Without services and supports, the transition into young adulthood can be difficult to navigate successfully.

Our Approach

We are interested in understanding how services change as people move through their lives. Our research examines questions about the services youth and young adults on the autism spectrum need in comparison to what they receive.

Our Key Questions

Which services do youth and young adults feel they need? Which ones do they receive?

What services are most effective in helping young people achieve their dreams and live quality lives?

Are those who need services the most receiving them?

Our Key Findings

This is what we’ve learned from our research to date: 

  • Rates of service use dramatically decrease as youth enter adulthood. Over one-quarter of students on the autism spectrum receive no services between  leaving high school and their early 20s. (NAIR, 2015)
  • Of young adults who were disconnected from both work and continued education after high school, 28% also received no services to help them connect to work and school. (NAIR, 2015) 
  • Students who are African American or from low-income households are more likely to not receive services after high school. (Shattuck, 2011)
  • As students on the autism spectrum progress from elementary to secondary school, they are more likely to receive mental health or social work services, but less likely to receive speech-language or occupational therapy, or to have a behavior management plan. (Wei 2013)

Additional Resources

You can also find links to our scientific journal articles.

Notable Publications