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Monday, May 8, 2017

New Report: GAO Suggests Transition at Age 14 for ASD Students

From Jim Gerl's Special Education Law Blog

By Jim Gerl, Esq.
May 5, 2017

"To successfully transition into adulthood, youth with ASD need to be able to access services that are individualized, timely, equitable, and community- and evidence-based..."

The federal Government Accountability Office issued a report today concerning transition services for special education students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Among the recommendations of the GAO is that the Department of Education consider reducing the age for transition services to age 14.

Here are some excerpts from the report:

"Students with disabilities are less likely than their peers to successfully transition to postsecondary education or the workforce, and youth with autism are even less likely to successfully transition than youth with other disabilities, according to recent research.

When young adults with disabilities do not successfully transition out of high school, they may face a lifetime of continued reliance on public assistance, potentially leading to substantial costs to their families, the government, and society.

Commonly known as autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a group of complex developmental disorders characterized by difficulties with social interactions and communication, highly focused interests, or repetitive or ritualized behaviors...

This report, which builds upon our recent work identifying this population’s needs examines (1) the types of services and supports provided at the local level to assist youth with ASD in transitioning to adult life, (2) the key challenges for youth with ASD in successfully transitioning to adult life, and (3) the extent to which key federal agencies have collaborated to assist youth with ASD in successfully transitioning to adult life...

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 68 children were identified as having ASD in 2012 (about 1.5 percent of 8-year-olds). ASD is a complex developmental disorder with characteristics that can range from mild to more pronounced (see fig. 1). Each autism characteristic may vary in type and degree from person to person and can fluctuate over time. The combination of characteristics results in a highly individualized condition, as illustrated in figure 2.

To successfully transition into adulthood, youth with ASD need to be able to access services that are individualized, timely, equitable, and community- and evidence-based, among other things, according to a roundtable panel we convened in 2016 to examine the needs of transitioning youth with ASD.

The panel also identified 14 key services and supports that may help youth with ASD attain the goals of education, employment, health and safety, independent living, and community integration as they transition to adulthood (see table 1).

Recent research analyzing the outcomes of youth with ASD suggests that they encounter obstacles to attaining their goals for adulthood. According to analysis of data from Education’s National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2), in 2009:
  • 36 percent of young adults with ASD had attended some type of post-secondary education institution. Of those youth, 32 percent had attended a 4-year college; 70 percent had attended a 2-year college; and 33 percent had attended a vocational, business, or technical school.
  • 19 percent of autistic adults in their early 20s had lived independently at some point, either with or without supports. Fourteen percent had lived in a supervised setting, such as a group home or medical facility, which may have provided services such as life skills education or vocational supports. The analysis further indicates that young adults with autism are less likely to live independently than youth with other disabilities, including intellectual disabilities and emotional disturbances.
  • About one-third of young adults with autism did not participate in any community activities, and 1/4 had not had any contact with friends for at least a year."

Among the recommendations of the GAO was:

"To determine whether IDEA’s current transition age requirement allows youth with disabilities, including those with ASD, the time needed to plan and prepare for the transition to adult life, the Secretary of Education should examine outcomes for students when transition services begin at age 16 and the merits and implications of amending IDEA to lower the age at which school districts are to begin providing transition services to students with disabilities, such as 14."

If you are involved with children with autism, you should read this report, which includes a wealth of information. You can review the entire 70-page report here. A summary of highlights is also available.

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