Autism and adulthood, it is looming for a significant number of families. According to Reuters Health, a new study has found that “35 percent of young adults with ASDs had not gone to school or held a job since high school.” The findings, which appear in the journal Pediatrics, also points out that family income plays a factor, putting those from low-income families at an even greater risk.
As a parent of a child with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), I read the story and wondered why the experts sounded so surprised. The majority of programs aimed at children with ASDs are not really thinking that far ahead. The programs are trying to give the children skills to cope with everyday life, to learn how to learn, to learn how to communicate so the rest of the world can understand them.
One of the hardest things someone with an autistic spectrum disorder does every day is make transitions. It is a huge leap to transition from school to work. We, as parents and educators, need to make those transitions smaller and more focused to enable students to become workers. We need to create opportunities during these students’ educations to begin exploring the work world.
Temple Grandin, Ph.D., an expert on and with autism, has made this one of her new missions. She has been traveling the country teaching parents and educators alike how to help our young men and women become part of the workforce.
In “Transition to Employment and Independent Living for Individuals with Autism and Aspergers,” Dr. Grandin wrote, “I slowly transitioned from the world of school to the world of full-time work.”
She described the many summer jobs and part-time jobs, she held, most of which her mother helped her find. “One of the things that made my transition successful was that I slowly transitioned from full-time school to slowly weaning myself away from the structured world of school,” Dr. Grandin wrote.
My son, Peter just turned 11. I am already starting to think of how to prepare him for his future, not just his education. To be honest, there are days I am not sure what steps to take and days I am not sure where we are headed. That is when I think of people like Temple Grandin. She willingly tells her story so the rest of us can find ways to help our own children and students.
For now, I am giving Peter more responsibility at home in very small steps. I talk with him about the grown up steps he is taking as he throws out the recycling or answers the phone (thank goodness for caller ID, I can choose those lessons carefully). I am not sure what I will do next to follow Dr. Grandin’s suggestions, but I am grateful she is out there helping society figure out how to fix the 1/3 statistic.
To learn more about Dr. Grandin’s approach visit http://www.grandin.com/inc/transition.employment.autism.aspergers.html or read her book, Developing Talents: Careers For Individuals With Asperger Syndrome And High-functioning Autism by Temple Grandin, Kate Duffy, Tony Attwood.