A university research group, conducted as part of a new research program in Western Australia, has found that parents of young people on the autism spectrum believe flexible and modified workplaces, when teamed with their child’s unique skills, will help them to achieve their full potential.
The findings from the research, led by Curtin University, supported by Australia’s Autism Cooperative Research Centre and published in PLOS One, examined the experiences of parents of young people on the autism spectrum in relation to their child’s transition to adulthood, through focus groups with parents of young people with autism aged 18 to 26 years from the Perth metropolitan area.
Lead author Craig Thompson, from the School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology at Curtin University, says finishing school was a challenging time for all adolescents and their families, but even more so for families living with autism.
Despite the challenges, he adds that the research shows that parents continue to provide a major source of support for young people with autism, but require additional support to ensure their children achieve their full potential into adulthood.
“The number of people living with this lifelong condition is increasing with an estimated 230,000 Australians currently affected, and 75 percent of people diagnosed with autism being 19 years of age or younger,” Mr Thompson says.
“We know that young people on the autism spectrum are ambitions and aspirational, but they commonly experience major challenges including unemployment, low participation in higher education and low rates of independent living as they transition into adulthood.
“Through this research, parents told us that workplaces need to be flexible, predictable and supportive to the individual needs of each young person on the spectrum to ensure their unique skills are fully harnessed.
“This shows that we need to recognise that no two young people with autism are the same and we need to focus on their strengths to maximise their participation in higher education, employment and independent living.”
Mr Thompson says future research should focus on examining how environmental factors in education setting as workplaces can be modified to help ensure the success of talented young people with autism.
The research by the university is available to view online.