Young Adults With Autism Found to Have Difficulty Transitioning Into Employment

Reports new study in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Washington D.C., September 5, 2013 A study published in the September 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that young adults with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have more difficulty transitioning into employment than their peers with different disabilities.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 (NLTS2; a longitudinal nationally-representative survey of youth ages 13-16 years as of December 2000 and receiving special education services), a group of researchers led by Dr. Paul Shattuck of Washington University in St. Louis examined the employment outcomes of 620 young adults, ages 21-25 years, who previously received special education services in secondary school under the autism eligibility category. Employment outcomes for young adults with an ASD were compared to outcomes for similar-aged young adults with different disabilities, such as mental retardation, learning disabilities, emotional disturbance, and speech/language impairment.

The study found that only half (53%) of young adults with an ASD had ever worked for pay outside the home in the first 8 years following high school, the lowest rate among disability groups even when controlling for impairment severity, household income, and social demographics. Only 34% were employed at the time of the survey interview. One in five worked full-time with average earnings of $8.10/hour, significantly lower than disability comparison groups. Young adults with an ASD were most frequently employed in office and administrative support occupations and experienced less variation in job types than young adults with other disabilities. Outcomes were better for those who were older, from higher income households, or who had higher functional skills.

Study author, Ms. Anne Roux, said, “The news is mixed. The study confirms low rates of employment for young adults with an ASD using a large, national sample. It highlights the marked difficulty that youth with autism are having during the transition into adulthood compared to their peers with other disabilities. However, we also note that half of young adults with an ASD did work outside the home for pay in the first years after high school, including those with more challenging levels of impairment. This finding provides hope for what might be possible with more effective preparation for employment, transition practices, and workplace supports. Learning about what works to improve employment outcomes is critical given the growing number of youth diagnosed with autism who are entering adulthood.”

The article “Postsecondary Employment Experiences Among Young Adults With an Autism Spectrum Disorder” by Anne Roux, Paul T. Shattuck, Benjamin P. Cooper, Kristy A. Anderson, Mary Wagner, and Sarah C. Narendorf, (DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2013.05.019) appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 52, Issue 9 (September 2013), published by Elsevier.

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Notes for editors

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Mary Billingsley at +1 202 966 7300 x105 or mbillingsley@jaacap.org. Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Anne Roux at aroux@wustl.edu.

Funding: This work was supported by funding to Dr. Shattuck from the Emch Foundation, Autism Speaks, and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; R01 MH086489). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not represent the views of NIMH or other funders.

All articles published in JAACAP are embargoed until the day they are published as in press corrected proofs online at http://jaacap.org/inpress. Articles cannot be publicized as in press accepted manuscripts. Contents of the publication should not be released to or by the media or government agencies prior to the embargo date.

About JAACAP

Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP is the leading journal focusing exclusively on today's psychiatric research and treatment of the child and adolescent. Published twelve times per year, each issue is committed to its mission of advancing the science of pediatric mental health and promoting the care of youth and their families.

The journal's purpose is to advance research, clinical practice, and theory in child and adolescent psychiatry. It is interested in manuscripts from diverse viewpoints, including genetic, epidemiological, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, social, cultural, and economic. Studies of diagnostic reliability and validity, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment efficacy, and mental health services effectiveness are encouraged. The journal also seeks to promote the well-being of children and families by publishing scholarly papers on such subjects as health policy, legislation, advocacy, culture and society, and service provision as they pertain to the mental health of children and families. www.jaacap.com

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Media contact
Mary Billingsley
JAACAP
Editorial Office
+1 202 966 7300 x105
mbillingsley@jaacap.org