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Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Participation Among College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder


Little research has examined the popular belief that individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely than the general population to gravitate toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, a nationally representative sample of students with an ASD in special education. Findings suggest that students with an ASD had the highest STEM participation rates although their college enrollment rate was the third lowest among 11 disability categories and students in the general population. Disproportionate postsecondary enrollment and STEM participation by gender, family income, and mental functioning skills were found for young adults with an ASD. Educational policy implications are discussed.

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  1. Science major point estimates are not reported for young adults with TBI or MD because of low cell counts, as required by the data use agreement with the US Department of Education.


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This research was supported by Grant HRD-1130088 from the National Science Foundation, Grant R324A120012 from the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, Autism Speaks, and Grant R01 MH086489 from the National Institute of Mental Health. However, any opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the positions or polices of the funding agencies.

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Correspondence to Xin Wei.

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Wei, X., Yu, J.W., Shattuck, P. et al. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Participation Among College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 43, 1539–1546 (2013).

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  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Postsecondary enrollment
  • College major
  • Young adult
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)