Dreams and Fears Of Autistic Teens


SALT LAKE CITY, UT (Ivanhoe Newswire) — What does adulthood look like to teenagers with autism? A researcher at the University of Utah went straight to the kids to see what they wanted their futures to look like.

Evan and Aaron Newman are about to graduate from high school. Both have autism. Both worry about impending adulthood.

“I’m not ready to deal with strangers a whole bunch. I like having a more familiar setting like with my family,” said Evan.

“It’s probably, like the scariest thing I’ve ever had looming ahead of me. It’s kind of this big unknown,” Aaron explained.

Both were part of the research project seeing how autistic teens understand the transition into adulthood. University of Utah assistant professor Anne Kirby interviewed 27 students.

Kirby said, “So much research is about people on the autism spectrum, but it’s not with them. So it’s not talking to them, it’s not hearing their own voices and their own ideas.” (Read Full Interview)

The kids told Kirby they want good jobs, college, and families, but they didn’t always grasp how to get there or challenges their disability could bring. Evan and Aaron’s mom knows all about that. Her two older children also are autistic.

Jennifer Newman said, “It’s just all those other coping skills, that executive functioning, the planning, the ability to handle the stress.”

She and Kirby agree that adulthood is a more subjective place for kids with autism and that preparing them should start early.

Kirby elaborated, “We do want to work with teens and families and service systems to help start as early as possible, preparing for adulthood.”

Kirby hopes her study will lead to better transition services for kids like Evan and Aaron.

Kirby is already working with parents to help them prepare their kids for “the real world” with things like time management, money management and interview skills. These will help them make smoother transitions into college or the work force.

Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Jason Ball, Videographer; Dave Harrison, Editor.


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BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by social interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors; however, symptoms and their severity vary widely across these three core areas. Taken together, they may result in relatively mild challenges for someone on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. For others, symptoms may be more severe, as when repetitive behaviors and lack of spoken language interfere with everyday life. Research suggests that children with autism are attached to their parents. However the way they express this attachment can be unusual. To parents, it may seem as if their child is disconnected. Both children and adults with autism also tend to have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking and feeling.

(Source: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/symptoms)


TREATMENT: Scientists agree that the earlier in life a child receives intervention services the better the child’s prognosis. All children with autism can benefit from early intervention, and some may gain enough skills to be able to attend mainstream school. The most effective treatments available today are applied behavioral analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and pharmacological therapy. Treatment works to minimize the impact of the core features and associated deficits of ASD and to maximize functional independence and quality of life. Pharmaceutical treatments can help ameliorate some of the behavioral symptoms of ASD. Risperidone is the first FDA-approved medication for the treatment of symptoms associated with of ASD in children and adolescents, including aggressive behavior, deliberate self-injury, and temper tantrums.

(Source: https://autismsciencefoundation.org/what-is-autism/treatment-options/)


NEW RESEARCH: Anne Kirby, Assistant Professor at University of Utah interviewed 27 adolescents on the autism spectrum to see what their perspectives and ideas about adulthood were, and what being an adult would be like for them. One finding was that teens were often drawn to the careers of their families. Kirby said, “If their family was a member of the military, they were thinking possibly about going into the military. If their parent was a psychologist, they were interested in psychology.” Kirby is working on an intervention with parents that focuses on giving teens more time and attention, and helping them prepare for adult life. The adolescents interviewed knew that they wanted jobs and families, but they were not sure about the steps in between and how to reach that goal.

(Source: Anne Kirby)



Stacy Kish, PR



If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

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