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Transition to Adulthood

Transition to AdulthoodThe word “transition” has two meanings for us:

  • the process mandated by law for schools to develop a “transition plan” ensuring that each student has a plan for attaining a job, postsecondary education, and independent living after high school
  • critical turning points across the lifespan, such as aging from adolescence into adulthood which is one of our key areas of research focus

Our research shows that more than half of young adults on the autism spectrum are not successfully transitioning to adulthood in the first two years after high school. A successful transition would mean a person has a role to play in society, through employment or pursuing further education, for example.

There is a real need for a wide variety of helpful resources that are available throughout a person’s lifetime, but coordinating and managing it all is challenging.

Our Approach

We have several approaches for investigating these issues:

  • We look at innovative programs helping young adults achieve a better quality of life.
  • We examine which high school experiences lead to better outcomes in those first few years after high school.
  • We talk with a range of young adults, family members and service providers to better understand different perspectives on what counts as a “good” outcome. 
  • We aim to find ways to make sense of the very different profiles of abilities and challenges across the autism spectrum. 

Our Key Questions

How often do people successfully transition into work or continued education after high school?

What sort of high school experiences reduce the risk of a poor transition?

What percentages of people on the autism spectrum will need intensive, moderate or light levels of support throughout their lives?

Our Key Findings

This is what we’ve discovered about the transition into adulthood:

  • Only 58% of youth with autism had a transition plan by the required age (per federal law) according to their special education teachers. (NAIR, 2015)
  • Over 60% of young adults on the autism spectrum do not transition into work or continued education within the first two years after leaving high school. (NAIR, 2015)
  • These young adults have the highest rates of disconnection (not in work or school) compared to their peers with other types of disabilities.  (NAIR, 2015)
  • Those from lower income households or who have lower conversational abilities are far more likely to experience disconnections from work and education following the transition from high school. (NAIR, 2015)
  • In the first few years following high school, 57% of young adults are focused on a postsecondary education track, while 17% are focused primarily on employment. About 29% are continuously or increasingly disconnected from any school and employment. (Wei, 2015)