Youth with autism are more socially isolated than other people

Youth with autism are more socially isolated than other people
Youth with autism are more socially isolated than other people

Young adults with autism are more likely to not have friends, get calls from peers, or be invited to social activities, says a new study on the social isolation of autistic youth by the Washington University in St. Louis.

Paul T. Shattuck, PhD, associate professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis is leading the research as part of a program on adolescents and adults with autism. The lead author of the study is Gael I. Orsmond, PhD, associate professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, Boston University and an expert on the social development of adults with an ASD.

“This is another study from our project that demonstrates the many difficulties awaiting young adults with an ASD once they leave high school,” Shattuck says. “Autism is a lifelong challenge for most, and we need to find better ways of supporting people during this transition to adulthood.”

Researchers examined social participation among young adults with autism and compared it to those with other those with other types of disabilities such as intellectual disabilities, emotional/behavorial disorders or learning disabilities, using data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2.

Study findings over a one year period

nearly 40 percent of autistic youth never met with friends
50 percent never received phone calls or invitations to activities
28 percent were socially isolated without any social contact

“Difficulty navigating the terrain of friendships and social interaction is a hallmark feature of autism,” Shattuck says. “Nonetheless, many people with autism do indeed have a social appetite. They yearn for connection with others. We need better ways of supporting positive social connection and of preventing social isolation.”


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