MU Researchers find that Individuals with Autism Need More Support as They Age

Jan 2, 2017

Credit David Chicopham / Flickr

A group of researchers from the University of Missouri have found that individuals with autism need more support as they transition into adulthood.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Family Social Work, MU researchers spoke with young people with autism, as well as their caretakers about the challenges they face as they enter adulthood. 

“One caregiver described this as they just felt like they hit a brick wall,” Jennifer First said.

First is a doctoral candidate in the School of Social Work and worked on the study alongside Nancy Cheak-Zamora, an assistant professor of health sciences in the MU School of Health Professions, and Michelle Teti, an associate professor of health sciences.

“So getting things like speech therapy, occupational therapy, a lot of those services they were able to get through the school system - when their youth then became an adult, all they encountered were things like wait lists or just being told their were no services available,” First said.

First said that she and her fellow researchers found that the most common stressors families face – things like difficulty accessing services, problems adapting to life changes and learning to manager multiple responsibilities - could be addressed by utilizing social workers.

“During this transition time period, since we are seeing a decline in services, I think that social workers can really help families try to coordinate things like mental health supports, independent living, respite care, vocational support. 

First added that going forward more funding for resources needs to be made available to families, and more research working directly with young adults with autism is needed.  

“More work can be done,” First said. “In terms of directly identifying what are their experiences? What are their perspectives? So giving them more voice.”