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Autism and Independence, Part 1

“Independence is happiness.”

-Susan B. Anthony

A lot of my work day is spent thinking about and building independence skills for individuals with autism spectrum disorders….and for good reason. Independence in individuals with autism is an enormous challenge. Let’s start by taking a look at some statistics from Autism Speaks regarding independence in adults with autism (

  • Over the next decade, an estimated 707,000 to 1,116,000 teens (70,700 to 111,600 each year) will enter adulthood and age out of school based autism services.

  • Teens with autism receive healthcare transition services half as often as those with other special healthcare needs. Young people whose autism is coupled with associated medical problems are even less likely to receive transition support.

  • Many young adults with autism do not receive any healthcare for years after they stop seeing a pediatrician.

  • More than half of young adults with autism remain unemployed and unenrolled in higher education in the two years after high school. This is a lower rate than that of young adults in other disability categories, including learning disabilities, intellectual disability or speech-language impairment.

  • Of the nearly 18,000 people with autism who used state-funded vocational rehabilitation programs in 2014, only 60 percent left the program with a job. Of these, 80 percent worked part-time at a median weekly rate of $160, putting them well below the poverty level.

  • Nearly half of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job.

  • Research demonstrates that job activities that encourage independence reduce autism symptoms and increase daily living skills.

The numbers are dismal and depressing. Adults with autism, in large numbers, are not performing independently or successfully in employment or personal areas as they age out of school-age services. What can we do to reverse these staggering statistics?

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