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Community and Social Participation

Community and Social ParticipationContributing to and participating in community in some way is key to a good quality of life for any person.

As with most people, most individuals on the autism spectrum want friends and social engagement. Yet, social isolation is common among people on the autism spectrum. Trouble with communication and social interaction sometimes makes community participation difficult and friendships hard to attain.

Our Approach

Our work measures social and community participation in high school and adulthood. We look at experiences like extracurricular activities, volunteering, hanging out with peers and participation in groups.

Our Key Questions

How often do young adults with autism experience social isolation or lack opportunities to participate in their communities?

For those who are socially isolated, what toll is this taking on their physical and mental health?

How do people’s living arrangements and employment status affect their social and community participation?

What supports help people on the autism spectrum engage more fully with their community?

Our Key Findings

  • Our preliminary data suggests that participating in extracurricular activities during high school improves the likelihood of a smooth transition from adolescence to adulthood. In our efforts to understand social engagement as people age, we’ve discovered:
  • Approximately one in four young adults with autism are socially isolated. They do not see or talk with friends and were not invited to social activities within the past year. (NAIR, 2015)
  • Nearly one in three young adults had no community participation in the past year - no volunteer or community service activities, no lessons or classes or other community activities outside of school. (NAIR, 2015)
  • One-third of youth on the autism spectrum participate in community social activities with their peers. This is a significantly lower rate than that of their peers with other types of disabilities.
  • Young adults with autism had the highest rate of social isolation within the past year than their peers with other types of disabilities. (NAIR, 2015)