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Sunday, September 10, 2023

Autistic Adults, and Services for Mental Health and Employment

In The Politics of Autism, I write:

Many analyses of autism speak as if it were only a childhood ailment and assume that parents are the main stakeholders. But most children with autism grow up to be adults with autism, and they suffer uniquely high levels of social isolation. Almost 40 percent of youth with an autism spectrum disorder never get together with friends, and 50 percent of never receive phone calls from friends. These figures are higher than for peers with intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, or learning disability. When school ends, many adults with autism have grim prospects. Though evidence is sparse, it seems that most do not find full-time jobs. Compared with other people their age, they have higher rates of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and suicide attempts.
Studies show that autism services can be complicated, creating difficulties for autistic people and their families

The number of autistic adults is growing, but there are fewer services to support them in adulthood. Many autistic adults need some support services to lead successful adult lives. We know a lot about the services autistic adults use and some of the problems with using these services, but we do not know which services are most helpful to them and how the services they use relate to how they interact with their communities. Forty autistic adults took part in a study about service use and community participation. They completed surveys, interviews, and carried a global positioning system tracker. They answered questions about which services are most helpful in adulthood, things that make it hard to use services, and what services they needed. Most participants used two services in the past 2 years, most frequently mental health and employment services. Adults who were currently seeing a mental health counselor were more likely to be working full-time and visit more locations in the community compared to those who were not seeing a counselor. Mental health services were reported as the most helpful service they received as adults, followed by employment services. We often focus on the importance of employment services after high school, but our findings show a need for both mental health and employment services for autistic adults.