gradWith graduation quickly approaching at Chapman University, the excitement and nervousness of transitioning into adulthood can be felt all across campus. The increased independence and ambiguity that come with finding employment, housing and a new routine can be stressful for all parties involved. For young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, this transition can be particularly difficult, especially with the challenge of finding continued support after leaving their school district’s programs.

Over the next decade, almost a half million people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will reach adulthood. A particularly difficult transition for these young adults is finding and sustaining employment. As a result of struggling to connect to the community through meaningful employment or post-secondary education, adults with ASD are finding themselves feeling disconnected much more than their peers. A large part of an adult’s identity is employment – so often the first question an adult gets asked is ‘what do you do?’. Having positive experiences through employment is critical for adults with ASD to foster a sense of connection within the community.

At the Thompson Policy Institute, we have noticed a lack of research and understanding about the various stages of employment for adults with ASD, particularly how career interests are developed and supported. Further, little information exists about pre-employment experiences, the youth’s  understanding of the world of work and career objectives, and the efficacy of services used for finding employment. Filling in these information gaps will be crucial in developing individualized programs that help adults with special needs transition into and sustain competitive integrated employment more successfully.

Bridging the communication and information gap between school based programs and service providers for young adults with ASD will be critical in shaping a successful transition into adulthood. Considering the amount of young adults receiving services for ASD has substantially increased in the last 15 years, this is certainly an issue that cannot be ignored.

Stay tuned as we continue to work on the issue of meaningful employment for people with disabilities.