Autistic individuals often struggle to successfully navigate emerging adulthood (EA). College is an increasingly common context in which individuals learn and hone the necessary skills for adulthood. The goal of this paper is to systematically review and assess the existing research on college as a context of EA development in autistic individuals, particularly in terms of understanding whether and how this context might be critically different for those who are typically developing or developing with other disabilities. Our findings indicate that ASD college students report feeling prepared academically, but exhibit weaknesses in daily living and social skills. Interventions largely focus on social skills, and rarely evaluate outcomes relevant to college success or longer-term emerging adulthood independence. We conclude with hypotheses and recommendations for future work that are essential for understanding and supporting ASD students as they navigate potentially unique challenges in college and their transition to independence during EA.
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C.M. Flegenheimer and K. S. Scherf both conceptualized and wrote the manuscript together. Both authors approved the final version of the manuscript for publication. Research reported in this publication was supported by the Pennsylvania State University Center for Online Innovation in Learning, the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant R33-MH110624). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The author(s) declared that there were no conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship or the publication of this article.
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Flegenheimer, C., Scherf, K.S. College as a Developmental Context for Emerging Adulthood in Autism: A Systematic Review of What We Know and Where We Go from Here. J Autism Dev Disord (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-021-05088-4
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Social communication
- Daily living skills
- Academic skills
- Emerging adulthood