Bleak Future for Autistic Teens - Report
9 October 2013 at 10:15 am
Many adolescents with autism are struggling with bullying and unmet educational needs, according to new research by Not for Profit, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).
The report, We Belong Too: the experiences, needs and service requirements of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder, is said to be first time in Australia that adolescents aged 12-17 years with autism, along with parents, have been surveyed in a study of this scale.
“The study was designed to create a statistically sound profile of the life experiences, aspirations and future support needs of this growing group of young Australians with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and builds on the Aspect We Belong study in 2011 into adults with autism,” the Aspect said.
“Our 2011 survey told us adolescence was defined by interrupted school pathways, relentless bullying and discrimination, and unmet educational needs, which meant most adults were highly unlikely to find employment,” Director of Aspect Practice, Dr Debra Costley said.
“Australia will lose out if our next generation of young people has the same trouble entering the workforce, and indicators from this 2013 We Belong Too report are not promising.”
One of the key findings of the report showed 65 per cent of parents did not believe educators were well informed about autism.
It also found that three in four autistic teens (74 per cent) reported difficulty paying attention and concentrating in class.
Other key findings of the report (which surveyed 100 adolescents with high functioning autism, and 65 parents, across Australia between November 2012 and June 2013) include:
• Bullying and discrimination: three in four parents (74 per cent) report their child needs more support to cope with bullying. Students with ASD are known to be at a higher risk of bullying than students in the general population (Cappadocia, Weiss & Pepler, 2012; Hebron & Humphrey, 2013);
• The study confirmed a high prevalence of mental health issues in adolescents with autism, with 66 per cent needing help coping with stress, and 73 per cent feeling lonely;
• Demand for more ASD-friendly sport and hobby groups: one in two teens with autism (57 per cent) belong or would like to belong to a hobby or sports group;
• Even though the majority of adolescents surveyed were optimistic about their future,their parents were not so confident – pointing to uncoordinated, unaffordable support services that are unsuitable for preparing adolescents with ASD for independent living.
The report is the first for the newly launched Aspect Practice – Aspect’s national program, which will share its evidence-informed practice and applied research with individuals, families, carers, schools, organisations, professionals and government agencies around Australia.
“Over the last 15 years there has been a growing number of people with autism. The prevalence among children and young people is now one in 100. This means there are an estimated 230,000 people with autism in Australia,” CEO of Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), Adrian Ford said.
“There is a huge international research effort going into the causes of autism. This is vitally important work. However there is nowhere near the same effort being put into the best possible services and practices that will help the 230,000 people living with autism in Australia right now!
“Aspect has established itself as a leading service provider with a strong research and evaluation capability – a unique combination – and one that is just right if we are to make a difference right now for people with ASD and their families.”