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“It’s a huge, huge issue,” Bell said. “Unfortunately there are many families that really struggle to understand what that transition ultimately entails. …They face the reality of having a child who may potentially not be able to have enough services to keep them busy during the day.”

“It’s only going to get worse …” Bell said.

His own 19-year-old son has autism and is being home-schooled and Bell has hired therapists to prepare him for jobs and other life skills.

Carol Schall, a special education policy specialist, said the results confirm smaller studies showing difficulties facing kids with autism as they transition into adulthood, and also highlight a need for better job training services offered in public schools for special education students.

She is involved in research at Virginia Commonwealth University investigating whether on-the-job training and teaching social cues to high school students with autism makes them more employable.

Kids are taught a range of practical skills and appropriate behavior. “It takes a much higher degree of intensity for them to learn skills” than for other kids, she said.

Preliminary results show this training has helped kids with autism find and keep jobs, she said.

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Online:

http://www.pediatrics.org

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AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/LindseyTanner