Patterns and Environmental Predictors of Employment and Independence among Adults with ASD
Since the early 1990's, the number of children diagnosed with ASD has risen rapidly and many of these children are now exiting high school. Without services and supports, their quality of life and potential for independent functioning in adulthood may be compromised. The goal of this project is to identify individual, family, service, and community characteristics that promote employment and independence for adults with ASD. First, the investigators will study how the years immediately after high school exit "set the stage" for employment and independence throughout adulthood. Although adults with ASD who do not have an intellectual disability (ID) are more independent than those with ID on average, it is expected that many adults without ID will not have their needs met by the adult service system, resulting in less stable vocational activities. Higher family income will likely play a critical role in increasing their opportunities for employment and independence. Second, they will examine the role of age by determining how employment and independence change over time for adults with ASD in their 20s, relative to those in their 30s or older. Because adults in their 20s (vs. 30s or older) have grown up with greater variability and availability of services, it is hypothesized that they will have higher rates of independence and employment over time. Third, the study will examine which aspects of the disability service system (such as inclusive educational settings or having all service needs met) promote employment and independence. The researchers will also examine the role of the recent economic downtown on employment for adults with ASD. They expect that services will have suffered during the downturn, leading to lower rates of employment and less independence. Fourth, they will examine the role of community and religious participation in adult outcomes. It is hypothesized that adults with ASD who are more connected into their community and whose parents are more connected will have greater opportunities for employment and independence. The study will examine a dataset of 400 adolescents and adults with ASD collected at six time points over 10 years. This dataset contains information about employment and vocational activities at every time point. Using an existing dataset is highly cost effective and provides the researchers with a unique opportunity to substantially advance our knowledge of how individual, family, service, and community factors work together to help adults with ASD reach their full potential.