In The Politics of Autism, I write:
When disabled people reach their 22d birthday, they no longer qualify for services under IDEA. ... People in the disability community refer to this point in life as “the cliff.” Once autistic people go over the cliff, they have a hard time getting services such as job placement, vocational training, and assistive technology. IDEA entitles students to transition planning services during high school, but afterwards, they have to apply as adults and establish eligibility for state and federal help. One study found that 39 percent of young autistic adults received no service at all, and most of the rest got severely limited services.
The National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) 2012 provides updated information on youth with disabilities in light of these changes, to inform efforts to address their needs. ...This second volume of findings from the NLTS 2012 focuses on youth with an IEP only and the similarities or dissimilarities across 12 disability groups defined by IDEA 2004. The assessment of diversity among the disability groups in the decade following IDEA 2004 suggests several key points:
- Youth with intellectual disability and emotional disturbance are the most socioeconomically disadvantaged groups and the most likely to attend lower-performing schools. According to parents, 72 percent of youth with intellectual disability live in low-income households, which is 14 percentage points higher than youth with an IEP on average. Smaller proportions of youth with intellectual disability (71 percent) and emotional disturbance (73 percent) have an employed parent, compared with all youth with an IEP (80 percent). In addition, one-third of students in these two groups attend a lower-performing school, compared with 27 percent of all youth with an IEP. In contrast, youth with autism and speech or language impairments are less socioeconomically disadvantaged than youth with an IEP overall (for example, 37 and 49 percent live in low-income households versus 58 percent of all youth with an IEP) and less likely to attend a lower-performing school (22 and 19 percent versus 27 percent).
- Difficulties with health, communication, and functioning independently are most prevalent among youth with autism, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, and orthopedic impairments. According to parents, youth in these four groups are most likely to have difficulty performing various activities of daily living without help, such as getting to places outside the home (43 to 60 percent can do so, versus 85 percent for all youth with an IEP). In addition, parents indicate that 37 to 53 percent have a chronic health condition, compared with 28 percent of youth with an IEP overall. At least half of youth in the first three groups have trouble communicating with and understanding others, as reported by parents. Youth with specific learning disabilities and speech or language impairments are less likely to have these difficulties.
- The groups that most commonly face health and functional challenges are also less engaged with friends and in school activities, but youth with emotional disturbance are most likely to get into trouble. Youth with autism, deaf-blindness, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, and orthopedic impairments are 10 to 36 percentage points less likely than youth with an IEP overall (52 percent) to report getting together with friends weekly. In addition, those with intellectual disability and multiple disabilities are about 10 percentage points less likely to report participating in school sports and clubs, compared with all youth with an IEP (64 percent). Youth with emotional disturbance are, on average, suspended (65 percent), expelled (19 percent), and arrested (17 percent) at more than twice the rates of youth with an IEP, according to parents, and are the most likely group to report being teased (48 percent). In contrast, youth with speech or language impairments are less likely to face engagement challenges.
- Youth with autism, intellectual disability, and multiple disabilities are most likely to receive academic modifications but least likely to receive some other forms of academic support. Parents report that about two-thirds of youth in these groups take modified tests and more than half receive modified assignments. Yet those youth are 16 to 25 percentage points less likely than youth with an IEP on average (72 percent) to report receiving school-provided supplemental academic instruction outside of regular school hours. They are also 7 to 14 percentage points less likely than all youth with an IEP (73 percent) to indicate that they received guidance on courses to take. Moreover, parents of youth with autism and multiple disabilities, along with youth with emotional disturbance, are least likely to report providing their children with weekly homework help (54 percent for all three groups, compared with 62 percent across all youth with an IEP).
- The same three groups—youth with autism, intellectual disability, and multiple disabilities—are least likely to take steps to prepare for college and employment. For example, 16 to 29 percent of youth ages 16 and older with autism, intellectual disability, and multiple disabilities report having taken a college entrance test, compared with 42 percent of youth with an IEP on average. Youth in these groups are also about half as likely as youth with an IEP overall to have had a paid job while in high school (22 to 23 percent versus 40 percent). In addition, their parents are less likely than parents of other youth with an IEP to expect them to obtain postsecondary education (32 to 53 percent versus 61 percent) and live independently as adults (35 to 49 percent versus 78 percent).