Local News
10:00 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Autism Center Stresses Early Detection to Parents

Students with autism are more likely to go to college one year after high school than students with other disabilities, but they may be having more trouble finding work, according to research from the Kentucky Post School Outcomes Center.

Credit Urban Studies Institute, University of Louisville

KyPSO--housed in the Human Development Institute and funded by the Kentucky Department of Education--researches post school data.

The study, according to the winter 2013 research brief, shows students with autism were almost twice as likely to go on to higher education than students with other disabilities one year after leaving the public school system.

Tony LoBianco, KyPSO director, says that same study shows students with autism were less likely to obtain competitive employment than students with other disabilities.

But, he says, because the study is considering students only one year out of high school it can’t speak to the longer term outcomes, and attending college suggests some of those students will be finding work later in life.

Data from KyPSO also shows when students with disabilities document their post school plans in their Individual Educational Plans--a document that sets specific objectives for students with disabilities--as it relates to work and school it has a positive relationship with the outcome. 

But what is surprising, LoBianco says, is that the student’s own individual response, when surveyed, was a better predictor than the goals listed in their IEP of whether that student went to college or found work.

This suggests that students should be more involved in their IEP process, and possibly even lead their IEP sessions, LoBianco says.

It's estimated over 8,000 individuals in Jefferson County have some form of autism spectrum disorder, according to the Kentucky Center for Autism Training, based at the University of Louisville. 

The KCAT--a mandated agency that provides training and information to practitioners, educators and families--is kicking off a statewide initiative to raise awareness about autism Monday. 

Assistant director Rebecca Grau says many doctors and parents aren’t trained to look for the first warning signs for autism early in a child’s life.

"Parents are really looking at those physical mile stones, you know is he walking, is he talking....but what are some of those emotional milestone. How is the child relating to folks, that kind of thing,” she says.

Further, families with children with a disability are legally entitled to certain services to assist their child and services can begin as early as birth, Grau says.

"There is a misnomer in this state that you cannot procure services if you do not have a diagnosis. That certainly is not the case. For parents that do have developmental concerns we strongly encourage them to call First Steps which is our states early intervention plan,” she says.

Services are expensive for public schools and some placements in private settings throughout the state can cost up to $65,000 a year in tuition. Larry Taylor, KCAT director.

The center calculates that by applying the rate determined by the Centers for Disease Control--1 in 88--to the county’s population. 

Many of those individuals struggle to find work and part of the reason is a lack of transitional services when students leave the public school system, Taylor says. 

Progress has been made in the public school system for transitioning students between grade levels, but when they leave school services begin to slide, he says.

"We can provide a lot of high quality services and support and students can be pretty far along and advanced in their training but once we get into the adult world there’s just not a lot of options out there and opportunities," he says.

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