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Quarter of adults with autism on disability services don't work

National Autism Indicators Report examined the lives and needs of adults with autism who use developmental disability services.

By Amy Wallace
The National Autism Indicators Report shows one quarter of adults with autism who use developmental disability services are not working or participating in structured activities during the day. Photo by Tim Gouw/Unsplash
The National Autism Indicators Report shows one quarter of adults with autism who use developmental disability services are not working or participating in structured activities during the day. Photo by Tim Gouw/Unsplash

May 24 (UPI) -- A Drexel University report finds a quarter of autistic adults using developmental disability services are not working or participating in structured programs.

The National Autism Indicators report, by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, found just 14 percent of adults with autism have a paying job in the community. The Institute has published two previous reports since 2015 showing adults with autism face obstacles transitioning into jobs.

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"Billions are spend each year on services for people on the autism spectrum," Paul Shattuck, associate professor in Drexel's Dornsife School of Public Health and director of the Autism Institute's Life Course Outcomes program, said in a press release.

"Relatively little is spent trying to understand the types and amount of services people need, as well as the services they actually end up getting or the outcomes of them. This latest National Autism Indicators Report continues our tradition of publishing dashboard-like statistics about how life is turning out across the course of these people's lives."

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For the 2017 report, researchers analyzed data from 3,500 adults who used developmental disability services and participated in the 2014-2015 National Core Indicators Adult Consumer Survey, which monitors the effectiveness of autism services for adults.

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The report showed that 25 percent of participants did not feel they were getting the full services they required.

Researchers found that families bear much of the burden of caring for their adult autistic children, with slightly less than half of participants living with their parents or relatives and 81 percent having lived with family for at least five years. The report showed 38 percent of participants received no paid or in-home services.

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Rates of mental health conditions like anxiety or mood disorders were high among survey participants with over half reporting they have at least one mental health condition.

Researchers say the report is a snapshot of a segment of the population receiving services, but there is likely a large population of adults with autism who do not receive disability services.

"Some states don't provide developmental disability services for adults with autism unless they also have intellectual disability," Anne Roux, research scientist at Drexel University, said. "These policies ignore the fact that many with autism are cognitively-able but still have tremendous challenges navigating the social, organizational, and communication demands of adult life."

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