Young people with autism have access to job training at vastly different rates depending on where they live, a new study shows.
A team at Drexel University looked at youth with autism on a state-by-state basis. In Pennsylvania, for instance, 90 percent of those eligible were accessing vocational training. But that rate dropped to 50 percent across the river in New Jersey.
Researchers say the “transition age” — from about 16 into the early 20s — is critical to ensuring a young person’s independence later in life.
“The whole goal of fostering effective transitions is to avoid those big gaps in services and big gaps in time when people are not engaging in some sort of activity that’s meaningful for their life, whether it be work or continued education or some type of activity in the community,” said research scientist Anne Roux, who led the study for the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute’s Life Course Outcomes Program.
The study also looked at how many youth were employed after services ended and found similar disparities. In Washington, D.C., the rate was 29 percent, while in Washington state it was more than 75 percent.
Encouragingly, the researchers found at least 70 percent of youth with autism had jobs following services in three other states as well: Alabama, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
Members of Roux’s team controlled for state unemployment and state fiscal capacity, which they said would be the usual suspects in explaining the disparity. So this study, they said, should prompt policy makers to take a closer look at what’s working in some states, and what’s not working in others.
Afea Tucker has a 17-year-old son with autism. She runs Au-Some Lives, a Philadelphia meet-up group for other young people like him.
Services for kids with autism start to dry up as they come into adulthood, Tucker said.
And as she gets older, her son’s future well-being is a constant concern.
“It’s a huge issue, a big worry.” she said. ”I have not talked to one parent who has a child who’s autistic who does not worry about what’s going to happen when they’re no longer around to care for their loved one, to care for their child, to look out for the little brother or their little sister.”