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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

Young Adults With Autism Less Likely to Have Jobs

Surveys looked at life after high school for 20-somethings with various disorders
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Shattuck said other studies have shown that getting kids with autism involved in social clubs, extracurricular activities and community service in high school can increase their chances of having friends and employment after they graduate. Internships and after-school jobs are key too.

"The best predictor of getting a job after high school is getting a job in high school," he said. "There's no substitute for real-world experience."

The studies, which were both published Aug. 30 in the journal Autism, drew on data collected in a 10-year nationwide study of teens who received special-education services during high school.

The focus of the research was a group of 620 kids with autism spectrum disorders. They were compared to 450 kids with intellectual disabilities, 410 kids with learning disabilities and 380 with emotional disturbances. Parents and, when possible, the young adults themselves, answered questions about their status every two years from 2000 through 2009.

An expert who wasn't involved in the studies praised the research, saying it lines up with what he sees in his practice.

"I think these articles are right on target," said Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Even though kids with autism can be intelligent and sometimes function very well, they can have trouble navigating social situations that require tact and deference, Hilfer said.

"They have more difficulty relating to the people around them," he said. "They have trouble reading cues and, as a result of all that, staying in a job or having jobs offered to them that are commensurate with their skill set is sometimes a little tricky."

Hilfer said kids with autism require intensive tutoring, coaching and mentoring to help them find and keep jobs.

With roughly 50,000 kids with autism graduating from high school each year, Hilfer said, this is a growing problem that remains to be addressed.

"I think we don't have enough programs in place to offer them the support they need," he said.

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