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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Autism Goes to College

At The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Rebecca Elias and Susan W. White have an article titled "Autism Goes to College: Understanding the Needs of a Student Population on the Rise." The abstract:
Understanding the needs of adolescents and emerging adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with respect to transition to postsecondary education is critical to development of user-informed transition programming. Parents of adolescents and emerging adults with ASD (n = 52) and ADHD (n = 47) completed an online survey. Social interaction training and independent living training were services frequently requested by parents in the ASD group. Additionally, parents of postsecondary students with ASD endorsed distinct challenges with self-advocacy, managing emotions, and managing personal/adaptive skills relative to postsecondary students with ADHD. The profile of parent-reported difficulties and needed services compared to transition to postsecondary education for students with ASD is distinguishable from that for ADHD, suggesting individualized transition planning and in-college supports.
From the article:
This study investigated challenges and needed supports among emerging adults with ASD, from parents’ perspectives. Results suggest that, in the context of transition into postsecondary education, students with ASD primarily struggle with social tasks and skills of daily living. Specifically, in the social domain, parents reported difficulties with social interactions and making and maintaining social supports such as friendships. These findings are consistent with the hallmark social disability of ASD (American Psychiatric Association 2013) and the adult outcomes of those with ASD, indicating that individuals are not fully independent but instead largely reliant on others for support (Howlin et al. 2004). Moreover, these results are the first to suggest that parents identify social difficulties into adulthood that are impairing to postsecondary success. The parent-reported struggles with skills of daily living are consistent with past literature indicating that individuals with ASD exhibit relative struggles with independent living (Bal et al. 2015), but are novel in that they characterize a high functioning young adult sample. These challenges differed significantly from those faced by emerging adults with ADHD. Specifically, parents report that emerging adults with ADHD struggle primarily with time management and attention. This finding is largely consistent with the literature (Cheung et al. 2015) and with diagnostic criteria for ADHD (American Psychiatric Association 2013). However, the lack of parent-reported difficulties with time management and attention among parents of emerging adults with ASD is noteworthy, considering the high level of comorbidity of ADHD among people with ASD (Levy et al. 2010) and the almost identical presentation on the executive functioning measure in this study. This pattern of results suggests that social impairment and independent living skill development are more pressing needs for college students with ASD, regardless of potentially co-occurring ADHD-related difficulties.