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Autism: Life After High School a Challenging Time

1 in 3 Young People With Autism Spectrum Disorder Go to College, Study Shows

Poor Youths Had Fewest Opportunities

As the name implies, autism spectrum disorder constitutes a wide range of skill, communication, and ability levels, with those on the milder end of the spectrum having few functional impairments and normal to above-normal intelligence, and those on the other end remaining very low-functioning throughout their lives.

Not surprisingly, the study found that post-secondary education and employment rates were highest for those with the fewest functional disabilities. But even these youths lagged behind their peers without ASD.

Twenty percent of young adults in the study who had no problems with communication did not join the workforce or continue their education after high school.

"When 1 in 5 children who don't have problems with language or conversation are not finding ways to remain connected, something is wrong," Shattuck says.

The study was published online today, and it appears in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.

For Some It's Like Starting Over

Merope Pavlides, who edits the web site Autism After 16, says many parents of children with autism spectrum disorders often don't know where to look for help when their children leave high school.

"Many feel very much like they did when their children were first diagnosed," she says. "They don't know what to do or where to turn."

She says this occurs even with highly functioning young adults on the autism spectrum.

"It is not unusual to see very bright students who do not have intellectual disabilities but who do have other issues that compromise their ability to function independently," she says.

Pavlides' own 21-year-old son, who has ASD, recently moved away from home for the first time to attend college.

He was mostly home schooled through high school, receiving his diploma at a local community college.

His transition was a big one, but he is doing well.

"He made the dean's list last semester," Pavlides says.

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