We want to know what factors influence how life unfolds for people on the autism spectrum. The majority of today's autism research looks only at a small number of people in a given study for answers. We study community systems, organization programs and policies, and large data sets for a greater understanding of the whole picture.
Most of our research answers one of three questions.
Are people becoming active members of society? We’re looking at social and public health indicators of things like getting a job, having friends, attending college and living independently.
What types of help do people have access to in comparison with the help they need?
We’re working to understand the needs of people on the autism spectrum, their families and the organizations that support them.
How are current strategies and innovations working? We research and evaluate innovative strategies, services, organizations and policies meant to help people on the autism spectrum.
Why focus on these questions? Because they are useful, practical and have the power to inform real-world decision making in government and social service agencies. Quite frankly, they need to be answered.
Transition to Adulthood
The transition from adolescence to young adulthood is a challenging time for all youth. Difficulties with communication, social interaction and high rates of health and mental health problems make this an especially vulnerable time for youth on the autism spectrum. When these youth age out of special education, they and their families must attempt to access adult systems of care and coordinate the management of complex service needs.
Our research looks at how people on the autism spectrum navigate this transition. How do they secure employment or continuing education opportunities and access needed services? What contributes to their doing so successfully?
Learn more about Transition to Adulthood
Access to Services
Many young adults on the autism spectrum are greatly affected by the loss of eligibility for supports and resources that comes with leaving high school and exiting special education services. Just as they begin to enter a new landscape of employment, college, and living apart from their parents, youth with autism may lose the services needed to succeed in their new adult roles.
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Some youth on the autism spectrum pursue college or vocational training following high school. Supportive programming options are fewer than in high school and require people to formally identify themselves as a person with a disability. We want to know what programs are available, what’s working well and what people with autism need during high school and postsecondary education to more completely meet their needs.
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Following high school, people on the autism spectrum are often not employed. Those who are employed typically work part time for low wages. It’s important that they have the opportunity to become active, employed members of society. We are working to learn what employment looks like now, and how we can help more people on the autism spectrum find and keep jobs in the future.
Learn more about Employment
Some people on the autism spectrum will eventually live independently as adults, but not all. We want to understand the different types of settings people live in. This will allow us to better identify supports and services that are still needed, and how living arrangements affect overall quality of life.
Learn more about Living Arrangements
Community and Social Participation
Social interaction is a challenge for people on the autism spectrum. We’re looking at how social engagement changes as people age, how it is affected by other areas of their life and whether social engagement (and preventing isolation) has a positive effect on mental and physical well being.
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Health and Mental Health
Mental and physical health problems are common for many people on the autism spectrum. Limited access to needed services makes life difficult. Co-occurring mental health issues in adults are common but something we currently know very little about. We want to better understand the needs of people on the autism spectrum and how these conditions impact their quality of life.
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Safety and Risk
Oftentimes, unusual behavior from people on the autism spectrum is misinterpreted which can lead to situations that put their safety at risk. We’re working to find information that promotes a better understanding of key ways to increase safety and decrease risk for people on the autism spectrum.
Learn more about Safety and Risk