June 12, 2012

After High School, Autistic Kids Lack Support

By Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage Today

Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and 

Dorothy Caputo, MA, RN, BC-ADM, CDE, Nurse Planner

Action Points
Note that this study supports the general conclusion that exiting high school is associated with a steep decline in service receipt for children with autism spectrum disorders.
Also note that compared with white youths, the odds of receiving no services after high school was 3.31 times higher among African-American youths with autism.

After finishing high school, many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are left hanging without supportive or health services, according to a national survey.

The survey, of families of more than 400 youths enrolled in special education followed in a 10-year prospective study, found that nearly 40% of those with ASDs didn't get any speech therapy, case management, mental health services, or other health services after age 18, Paul Shattuck, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues reported.

"Exiting high school is associated with a steep decline in service receipt," Shattuck and co-authors wrote in the February issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, noting that the proportions of children receiving these services six years prior to graduation were greater than after they graduated.

There's been little research as to what happens to adolescents with ASDs once they reach young adulthood. Youths are especially vulnerable during this time, the researchers said, because of their challenges with communication and social interaction, as well as their greater reliance on others for aid and high rates of comorbid health and mental health problems.

So the group conducted a telephone survey between April 2007 and February 2008 among parents and guardians of 410 participants ages 19 to 23 in the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 -- a 10-year prospective study that followed more than 11,000 young people who had been enrolled in special education. The study included 920 youths enrolled in the special education autism category at the start of data collection in May 2001.

The families were surveyed

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