Autism Young Adults

Explore empowering strategies for autism in young adults, from employment programs to healthcare access.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
June 18, 2024
Published On
June 18, 2024

Employment Programs for Autistic Youth

As part of the ongoing efforts to support young adults with autism in their transition to adulthood and independence, there are a variety of employment programs available. These programs aim to provide autistic youth with the skills and experience necessary to thrive in the workplace. One such program is the Canucks Autism Network - Skills Training Employment Program (CAN-STEP).

Canucks Autism Network - Skills Training Employment Program (CAN-STEP)

The Canucks Autism Network - Skills Training Employment Program (CAN-STEP), funded by the Government of Canada's Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, is specifically designed to equip autistic youth and adults with essential skills and work experience to prepare them for successful employment [1]. The program offers a combination of classroom training spanning five weeks and a paid work experience stretching over six weeks in the Lower Mainland.

Program Components and Benefits

Participants in the CAN-STEP program have the opportunity to choose from a range of workshops focusing on pre-employment skills. They can also gain certifications in courses like SuperHost customer service training, First Aid, WHMIS, FOODSAFE, and more. Furthermore, the program includes a 120-hour work experience placement in the hospitality industry [1].

The CAN-STEP program is unique in that it caters specifically to youth and adults on the autism spectrum, with a strong emphasis on fostering independence in their career journey. It offers tailored support to meet individual needs through one-on-one career planning and guidance, provided by dedicated Employment Facilitators [1].

The program is supported by an Employer Engagement Coordinator and a Work Experience Support Coordinator, who work hand in hand to ensure participants' success in their placements. To facilitate participation, specific adaptations or accommodations can be provided upon request.

By providing autistic youth with structured training, practical experience, and personalized support, the CAN-STEP program plays a vital role in empowering these individuals to achieve their career goals and enhance their independence. This is a testament to the ongoing commitment to foster an inclusive and supportive environment for individuals with autism.

Transitioning to Adulthood

Transitioning to adulthood is a significant milestone in everyone's life. For young adults with autism, this transition can be especially challenging due to a variety of factors, including social isolation, limited access to healthcare services, and difficulties in transitioning to postsecondary education.

Challenges Faced by Young Adults with Autism

One of the significant challenges faced by autism young adults is social isolation. Studies show that approximately one-half to two-thirds of adults with autism report having no close friendships, and fewer than half participate in social events in the community. This can impact their mental health and overall quality of life, contributing to feelings of exclusion, discrimination, and a sense of being different.

Access to healthcare services is another pressing issue. Factors such as a shortage of specialists, long wait times for diagnosis and treatment, high costs of services, limited knowledge among families and individuals about available care options, and insufficient physician knowledge and training create barriers.

Transitioning from high school to postsecondary education can be particularly difficult. Research shows that young adults with autism are less likely to prepare for college while in high school and more likely to enroll in a 2-year college than a 4-year college [2].

Furthermore, young adults with autism are more likely to experience mental health challenges, including depression and anxiety, compared to their peers. These challenges are often compounded by social difficulties, social isolation, loneliness, bullying, and stigmatization.

Support Programs and Initiatives

To address these challenges, comprehensive transition planning and support services are crucial. Individualized planning focusing on the strengths, needs, challenges, and preferences of the young adult can significantly assist in the transition process. Tools like the Community-Based Skills Assessment (CSA) can evaluate the current skill levels and abilities of students with autism from the age of 12 onwards, helping to develop a unique and comprehensive plan for their transition [3].

Efforts to increase access to healthcare services have included the use of telemedicine and videoconferencing, particularly in remote areas. Additionally, providing accessible mental health services on college campuses, raising awareness about autism and its challenges, and fostering inclusive and supportive environments are crucial steps in supporting the mental well-being of young adults with autism.

In summary, while significant challenges exist for young adults with autism transitioning to adulthood, a range of support programs and initiatives are available to assist in this process. These programs aim to address the unique needs of these individuals and empower them to navigate adulthood successfully.

Postsecondary Education Opportunities

Navigating the transition from high school to the world of postsecondary education can present unique challenges for young adults with autism. However, with the right resources and support, they can take advantage of a range of opportunities that enhance their skills, broaden their horizons, and prepare them for successful futures.

Specialized Programs and Resources

The Canucks Autism Network – Skills Training Employment Program (CAN-STEP) is an exceptional initiative that provides autistic youth and adults with the skills and work experience needed to prepare for successful employment. The program offers a blend of classroom training (5 weeks) and paid work experience (6 weeks) in the Lower Mainland.

Participants in the CAN-STEP program have the chance to select from a range of workshops to learn pre-employment skills, gain certifications in courses like SuperHost customer service training, First Aid, WHMIS, FOODSAFE, and more. Additionally, they receive a 120-hour work experience placement in the hospitality industry [1].

CAN-STEP is funded by the Government of Canada’s Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, aiming to support individuals on the autism spectrum and their families in British Columbia.

Workplace Essential Skills and Training Program

The Workplace Essential Skills and Training (WEST) program at VIU Cowichan is another remarkable opportunity for neurodivergent adults, including those with autism. This two-year full-time workplace skills and experience program is designed for adults (17+) with diverse needs, developmental disabilities, or learning disabilities, such as FASD, ADHD, dyslexia, Autism, cognitive disabilities, brain injury, and anxiety.

The program offers a grant that fully covers tuition and books for most students, removing financial barriers and making it more accessible to a wider range of participants. The WEST program focuses on practical skills that will be invaluable in the workplace, preparing its students for a wide range of professions and industries.

Access to these specialized programs and resources can be a game-changer for young adults with autism. They offer targeted support and training that caters specifically to the needs and abilities of individuals on the autism spectrum, ensuring they are prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities of adulthood head-on.

Housing and Community Living

One of the significant aspects of empowering autism in young adults involves creating suitable housing opportunities and promoting comfortable community living. This section explores various housing solutions, resources, and recent studies focused on improving the quality of life for young adults with autism.

Housing Solutions and Resources

Organizations such as the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and Creative Housing Solutions LLC are making valuable contributions in this area. The CSH is a national non-profit organization that assists communities in creating permanent housing with services to prevent and end homelessness. Meanwhile, Creative Housing Solutions LLC provides consulting, technical support, planning, and ownership advice to design environments that support individuals with varying abilities, interests, and lifestyles, including those with autism.

In addition, the Policy Research Brief summarizing a national study on Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) provides valuable insights into the status of these services. The brief was published by the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the Institute on Community Integration, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota.

First Place Global Leadership Institute Study

Furthering the understanding of housing solutions for adults with autism, a groundbreaking 2020 study by the First Place Global Leadership Institute has made significant strides. Titled "A Place in the World: Fueling Housing and Community Options for Adults with Autism and Other Neurodiversities (APITW)", the study serves as a comprehensive resource for the housing industry, service providers, policymakers, scholars, researchers, and stakeholders. It aims to define market segments, best practices, and guiding principles for housing and service delivery models for adults with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities.

This study is seen as a crucial milestone in unlocking the future for young adults with autism, offering valuable data and recommendations that can be utilized to create more inclusive, supportive, and empowering living environments.

Through initiatives like these, the journey towards creating a more inclusive world for young adults with autism continues, with housing and community living being an important aspect. Combining supportive housing solutions, community-based services, and research-backed practices, we can help empower young adults with autism to lead fulfilling, independent lives.

Healthcare Access and Services

Healthcare access and services are critical to supporting autism in young adults. However, there are various barriers that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often encounter, which makes it challenging to access the necessary healthcare services. In response to these issues, several initiatives have been implemented to improve access to care.

Barriers to Healthcare for Individuals with Autism

Individuals with autism often face significant barriers to healthcare, leading to unmet healthcare needs. These barriers include:

  • Shortage of Specialists: ASD diagnosis and treatment require specialized care. But a shortage of these specialists, particularly in areas outside metropolitan regions, often results in long wait times for diagnosis and treatment.
  • Insufficient Physician Knowledge and Training: Many physicians lack the specialized knowledge needed to screen, diagnose, and refer individuals with ASD.
  • High Costs of Services: The cost of ASD-related services can be prohibitively high for many families.
  • Limited Knowledge of Available Care Options: Families and individuals with ASD often lack information about available care options.
  • Stigma: Stigma around autism can lead to feelings of rejection and isolation, preventing individuals with ASD from engaging with the healthcare system.

Initiatives to Improve Access to Care

Several initiatives have been put in place to address these barriers and improve access to healthcare for individuals with autism.

  • Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) Autism Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children (STAT): This tool is increasing the capacity to screen, diagnose, and treat autism in rural communities, addressing the specialist shortage and long wait times.
  • ECHO Autism STAT program: This program is aimed at improving physician awareness and providing early access to services for individuals with ASD.
  • Public Awareness Programs: Initiatives like introducing a Muppet with autism to a popular television show have been successful in reducing stigma and increasing knowledge, acceptance, and inclusion of autistic children [5].
  • Telemedicine and Videoconferencing: These efforts have been employed to increase access to care in remote areas, addressing the shortage of specialists [2].

By addressing these barriers and implementing effective solutions, we can improve healthcare access for young adults with autism, leading to better health outcomes and improved quality of life.

Transition Planning and Support

Transition planning and support are essential for young adults with autism. They help to prepare for the changes and challenges that adulthood brings and ensure that individuals are equipped with the necessary skills and resources to thrive in their adult lives.

Comprehensive Transition Services Under IDEA

Students with autism have the right to receive comprehensive transition services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). School districts bear the responsibility to provide the necessary supports to help these individuals meet their post-high school goals. These transition services must be included in each student's Individual Education Program (IEP) by the age of 16, ideally beginning as early as 12 or 14 years old. These services are paramount to establish while the student is still within the school system. This is due to the fact that the funding and services available through IDEA become inaccessible once the student has received a high school diploma or aged out of the school system, typically between ages 18-21. (Autism Speaks)

Developing a Transition Plan

Developing a transition plan for young adults with autism involves considering aspects such as employment, post-secondary education, participation in a day habilitation program, and independent living outside of the family home. The transition plan's aim is to build the necessary skills for the individual to achieve these goals in adult life. It is understood that these goals can evolve over time. Early initiation of the transition process is strongly emphasized to ensure adequate preparation. This transition to adulthood involves collaboration between the individual, parents, the school district, and other relevant parties to create a plan that supports the individual's journey into adulthood. (Autism Speaks)

To assist in this transition, Autism Speaks provides a Transition Tool Kit. The kit includes resources such as Community-Based Skills Assessment (CSA), Transition Roadmaps, Postsecondary Educational Opportunities Guide, Employment Tool Kit, Housing and Residential Supports Tool Kit, and the Latest on Transition Policy. These resources are designed to assist individuals with autism, their families, and caretakers in navigating the transition to adulthood, including aspects like education, employment, housing, and community-based skills assessment. (Autism Speaks)

Moreover, Autism Speaks offers resources that focus on specific aspects of the transition to adulthood for individuals with autism. These resources provide guidance and support for transitioning to college, entering the workplace, and achieving greater independence. Additionally, they offer expert advice and personal stories, including insights on autism and the transition to adult healthcare. These resources aim to provide valuable information, tools, and personal experiences to support individuals with autism, their families, and caretakers in managing the healthcare aspects of transitioning to adulthood and accessing the necessary support services. (Autism Speaks)