One in 68 children—and one in 42 boys—is on the autism spectrum. Parents of children with autism face a host of challenges that don’t end with the daily struggles of raising a child who is “different.” Some also worry about their child’s ability to get a job or live independently.
New research presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research offers parents some hope, pointing to evidence that self-care skills mastered in childhood can help adults with autism land jobs.
Self-Care Skills and Job Success
To explore which factors might affect job success in adults with autism, researchers surveyed 81 adults who had been diagnosed with autism between 1970 and 1999. The participants ranged in age from 21 to 64, with an average age of 34. Most participants had been diagnosed with moderate to severe autism, with an average age at diagnosis of 6.5. Thirty-six percent of participants reported no contact with friends in the previous year, suggesting intense social isolation.
About 45% of participants lived with their families, so researchers also interviewed caregivers to get additional information about participants’ jobs, quality of life, mental health, language skills, symptoms, and social skills. Researchers also asked about basic self-care skills.
Just 43% of participants were employed, but researchers found that self-care skills were the most important predictor of job success. Participants with good self-care skills were more likely to keep their jobs and to work longer hours. They also relied on employment assistance services less frequently. Importantly, researchers found that a job is a good predictor of quality of life among people with autism, suggesting that something as simple as teaching self-care could boost quality of life.
Mastering Self-Care in Childhood
Researchers found that self-care skills tended to stick around. Children who had better self-care skills were more likely to grow into adults with strong self-care skills, and therefore more likely to land good jobs. The study’s authors suggest that their research provides important information for parents, educators, and autism advocates. They highlight the need for more home-based interventions to help people with autism and their caregivers.
Parents interested in helping their children with autism succeed can begin practicing self-care skills now. Such skills include basic hygiene, such as bathing and shaving, as well as cleaning, basic communication, and preparing meals.
- Autism prevalence. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/prevalence
- Mozes, A. (2015, May 15). Learning daily skills prepares kids with autism for adult life. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2015/05/14/learning-daily-skills-prepares-kids-with-autism-for-adult-life
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