Foundation hopes to fill a void by helping autistic young adults

Chicago Tribune, December 4, 2013

In 2012, the Tracy family created the Julie + Michael Tracy Family Foundation to raise awareness and money for opportunities for adults with autism, particularly those with a mental illness. One goal of the foundation is to help these young adults transition into independent living with a good job and top-notch housing where they can continue to feel socially connected.

[Julie Tracy]  said although early intervention is important for children with autism, some illnesses don’t become apparent until later in life, and that’s why focusing more research on adults is key.

According to Paul Shattuck, an associate professor in the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute and Drexel University School of Public Health, out of the roughly 11,000 studies on autism between 2000 and 2010, about 23 focused on services for adults. And none of those examined the way race, ethnicity and even poverty further complicated the outcomes of these adults.

Shattuck recently led two studies showing that many young adults with autism-spectrum disorders face grim prospects for getting a job and finding suitable housing. Only about 21 percent of respondents polled said they worked full time, and their average pay was $8.10 per hour.

“The typical life span (of an American) is 70 to 80 years, and by not studying young adults with autism-spectrum disorders, we’re not understanding the typical person with autism,” Shattuck said. “What happens in adulthood is what impacts society most in terms of costs and policy.”

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