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Monday, November 19, 2012

Autism and STEM Education

Previous posts have discussed autistic people who attend college. At The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Xin Wei and colleagues have an article titled:  "Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Participation Among College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder."  Here is the abstract:
Little research has examined the popular belief that individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely than the general population to gravitate toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, a nationally representative sample of students with an ASD in special education. Findings suggest that students with an ASD had the highest STEM participation rates although their college enrollment rate was the third lowest among 11 disability categories and students in the general population. Disproportionate postsecondary enrollment and STEM participation by gender, family income, and mental functioning skills were found for young adults with an ASD. Educational policy implications are discussed.
The article suggests that ASD education may pay dividends for the broader economy:
In an era where a world-class science and engineering workforce is needed to remain competitive in a technologically advancing global economy, it becomes imperative to discover previously untapped sources of STEM talent. This study confirms that individuals with an ASD may indeed have the potential to become such a resource. The implications from these findings also support previous research indicating that postsecondary educational institutions need to provide extra supports and services for students with autism to complete their college degrees and navigate toward STEM careers (Roberts 2010; Van-Bergeijk et al. 2008). Future studies in the area of ASD and STEM should continue to bridge the gap between education research and practice by informing stakeholders, such as parents, high school teachers and administrators, college deans, and counselors of resource centers, of the postsecondary educational environments that best support the enrollment, persistence, and completion of STEM degrees among college students with an ASD.