Mapping the Future for Adults with Autism
Drexel is leveraging a $3.6 million grant to study how life on the autism spectrum progresses…
Half a million adolescents on the autism spectrum will enter adulthood in the next decade. Only a handful of researchers are investigating how they'll fare.
Having "aged out" of social services, these young adults will struggle to lead productive lives, warns Dr. Paul Shattuck, associate professor in the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute and the School of Public Health. Shattuck serves as head of the institute's Life Course Outcomes research program.
In 2014, the institute received an anonymous $3.6 million gift to expand the Life Course Outcomes program's research into this hugely underrepresented area of autism studies.
Shattuck has uncovered statistical evidence that young adults on the autism spectrum have a hard time finding employment or engaging with education and are more likely to live with parents. They tend to earn less and work fewer hours even than people with other disabilities such as serious mental illness. Through Shattuck's work, parents and advocates are getting numbers they can use to push for improved public policies.
"We need national dashboard data on whether things are getting better, whether the efforts we're expending are giving us the results we want," says Shattuck. "This gift is going to allow us to launch several research projects that will create the opportunity to catch up."
The program will ask questions about quality of life through the entire lifespan. Are children getting diagnosed and entering services at an early age? What's holding back adults on the spectrum from attending college or becoming gainfully employed? What services do people receive compared to what they need? What's working and what's not?