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Addressing the Needs of Adolescents and Adults with Autism: A Crisis on the Horizon

Abstract

The cohort of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosed as part of the first wave of what is often referred to as the autism epidemic is rapidly approaching adulthood. This cohort represents only the proverbial tip of the iceberg with some reports noting that 70% of the currently identified individuals with ASD are less than 14-years old. These numbers represent a looming crisis of unprecedented magnitude for adults with autism, their families, and the ill-prepared and underfunded adult service system charged with meeting their needs. A review of the current literature on outcomes for adults with ASD indicates that, independent of current ability levels, the vast majority of adults on the spectrum are either unemployed or underemployed and, further, that large numbers of adults with autism remain without any appropriate services. Many have had inadequate transition programming including little attention to service coordination, minimal direct family involvement and/or absence of treatment based on evidence-based practices. Lastly, issues related to staff and provider recruitment and retention present significant, systemic challenges to the provision of effective services. As such there is a significant and growing need for greater attention to individual needs of adults with ASD if we are provide the opportunity for a positive quality-of-life.

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Acknowledgments

The preparation of this article was supported, in part, by a grant from the New York Center for Autism (NYCA) and the Organization for Autism Research.

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Correspondence to Peter F. Gerhardt.

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Gerhardt, P.F., Lainer, I. Addressing the Needs of Adolescents and Adults with Autism: A Crisis on the Horizon. J Contemp Psychother 41, 37–45 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-010-9160-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-010-9160-2

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Transition
  • Adult services
  • Evidence-based practice