Highlights from Beautiful Minds Wasted, The Economist
Thanks to my colleague, Jennifer Mannheim, ARNP , for passing along a recent article on autism and employment (The Economist, April 16, 2016 Beautiful Minds Wasted). As more and more children with autism become young adults, it offers a look at what happens after educational services end.
This article provides a global glimpse at the state of employment for those on the spectrum and is chock-full of sobering statistics:
- In 1970, 1 in 14, 000 children in the US were diagnosed with an ASD.
- In 2016, 1 in 68 children in the US were diagnosed with an ASD.
- In France, 90% of children with an ASD attend primary school but only 1% makes it to high school.
- In the US, less than 50% of students with an ASD graduate from high school.
- In the UK, 60% of teachers said they were unprepared to teach children with an ASD.
- In the UK, 12% of adults with HFA are employed and 2% of adults with “more challenging forms of ASD”.
- Globally, per the UN, 80% of adults on the spectrum are unemployed.
- In the US, 19% of adults with an ASD in their early 20s live independently away from their parents.
- 1 in 4 adults with an ASD report feeling isolated (have not seen friends or received a social invitation in the past year).
The article identified some of the employment challenges for those on the spectrum, including difficulty with the social aspects of the interview process, the often over stimulating work environment and adapting to changes in schedules and routines. On the other hand, strengths of some on the spectrum include intense focus and an eye for detail, enjoyment of repetitive tasks, dependability in following rules and routines.
Also mentioned were employers throughout the world who have made efforts to assist employees with an ASD to be successful including Specialisterne, A Danish firm that offers training and help finding jobs, Kaien in Japan, AQA in Israel, Passwerk in Belgium, and Walgreens in the US.
The Economist cites lifetime cost of unemployment associated with an ASD (lifelong care, lack of output by such individuals and un/under employment by families who care for those who do not work) is cited as between 1.4-2.4 million dollars.
Depressing? Yes. Surprising? No. The world is still not capably or comprehensively providing services and supports for children with an ASD and their families. It is only beginning to see the massive wave of children now coming of age into adulthood. Our kids are not ready for the real world and the real world is not ready for them.