Giving Compass' Take:

• Research indicates that helping young adults with autism set personal goals in adolescence can help strengthen independence. 

• How can donors financially support more research that will help individuals with autism and their caregivers? 

• Learn about how soft skills training can help young adults with autism prepare for work. 

New research suggests setting personalized goals early in adolescence and providing opportunities to achieve those goals can improve independence for young people with autism.

The independence that comes with growing up can be scary for any teenager, but for young adults with autism spectrum disorder and their caregivers, the transition from adolescence to adulthood can seem particularly daunting.

Tasks such as managing one’s own health insurance or applying for a car loan can prove especially challenging for individuals with developmental disabilities.

For the new study in Autism, researchers measured the self-determination of young adults with autism to better assist their transition to adulthood.

“We found that there was a disconnect between the support the caregivers are providing and what the young adults are doing themselves to become more independent,” says Nancy Cheak-Zamora, associate professor in the health sciences department in the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri.

“We need to allow adolescents, particularly those with disabilities, to take on greater responsibilities at an earlier age and raise their expectations by first asking them about their goals and then providing the resources and support systems to help them achieve those goals.”

Increasing self-determination for young adults with autism starts with shifting the perception about what individuals with developmental disabilities can achieve, Cheak-Zamora says.

“As a society it would be helpful to move away from a focus on deficits and challenges that people with autism and other disabilities face to considering their strengths and skill set. We can then develop ways to help each person build on their strengths.”

Read the full article about autism research by Brian Consiglio at Futurity.