This blog is the work of Loyola University Chicago's Advanced Reporting class for Spring 2011. We will be researching and writing about mental illnesses and brain diseases in an effort to educate the general public about the issues surrounding mental health. We hope to reduce the stigma of mental illness and present accurate and fair reporting on current mental health issues.
After graduating from high school, autistic students are no longer eligible to receive help from their previous high school’s special education programs. This is due to the lack of effort made by policy makers on the national, state, and local level to ensure the continuity of supportive services as they become adults. These high school graduates have limited access to mental health services, speech therapy services, medical evaluations, assessment services, and case management services.
The percentage of autistic people receiving these types of services after high school is about 40 percent, which is not many for a population that has such demanding health care needs according to Paul Shattuck, PhD., professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Shattuck’s study revealed that there were the following; 9 percent for speech therapy, 35 percent for mental health or psychological counseling, 24 percent for medical evaluation services and 42 percent for receiving case management services after graduation. However, the central challenge for those with autism is their social communication skills. High schools focus about 75 percent of their time in speech therapy classes to help them become more sociable, but the problem arises after high school when only 9 percent of services focus on speech therapy. For these soon-to-be adults, who may want to contribute to community by working, their social skills are crucial.
Dr. Shattuck emphasizes the importance of a better distribution of services for those with autism .“A positive transition creates a solid foundation for an adaptive adult life course," said Shattuck. "And a negative transition can set the stage for a pathway fraught with developmental, health and social difficulties.”