Passport to Life: Investigating the Need for Life Skills Training Among High Functioning Young People with Autism and Their Parents”
In the area of autism interventions further research is needed to identify effective strategies to promote independence (Hendricks & Wehman, 2009). It is recommended that life skills should be addressed before adulthood and school could be an ideal place to target those skills and set individualised goals during transition planning (Duncan and Bishop, 2015). Furthermore there is a need to establish which outcomes are most meaningful for individuals and their families and they should be consulted in the development of future interventions and supports (Ratto and Mesibov, 2015).
This was a qualitative study with the aim to investigate: a) Views and needs in relation to adulthood transition as expressed by young people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and their parents b) Their experiences of previously accessed training and support with an emphasis on school provision c) What type(s) of future life skills support they may consider beneficial and would wish to access.
Data were collected through 20 semi-structured interviews with ten young people in the age groups 11-17 years and ten mothers. Data were analysed using Thematic Analysis
Three overreaching themes were identified: Building the Foundations for the Future (Sub theme 1a: Focusing on strengths and interests and encouraging participation in new activities; Sub theme 1b: Trying to identify available support but faced with confusion and lack of clarity); Theme 2: Caught in between: Negotiating two parallel but different realities (Sub theme 2a: Experiencing the common challenges of adolescence; Sub theme 2b: Facing additional challenges related to autism; Sub theme 2c: Young people with ASDs and their families share common aspirations with their neuroypical peers while recognising that achieving those is not going to be straightforward); Theme 3: The need for personalisation of the support (Sub theme 3a: Mixed acceptability and efficiency of previously accessed support; Sub theme 3b: Shifting the focus to the individual- The requirement for mentoring and ASD specific support; Sub theme 3c: Prioritising the Young Person). Participants expressed the desire for personalised support and mentoring was considered to best meet this requirement. Mothers wanted the focus of interventions to shift on the young people and did not want to get involved in the training designed for their children. Perceived inability from schools and services to recognise and manage individual needs was the main cause for dissatisfaction among participants and only few of them described receiving ongoing support around life skills from their school. Furthermore, mothers were not always aware of what support is available and how to access it.
The study highlights possible issues in the current provision of support for young people with ASDs and offers new insights into the existing literature of autism interventions, particularly regarding the types of support and levels of parental involvement that parents and young people consider desirable.