Educational Achievements, Employment and Future Plans for Autistic Individuals within a Population-Based Twin Sample.
Previous research has shown a large proportion of adults with ASD (diagnosed in childhood) were not living independently, were unemployed and left school without formal academic qualifications. Past studies primarily focus on clinical samples which might not be representative. This study uses a population-based twin sample.
This study compared the education, employment and future plans for autistic individuals from a population-based twin sample, with those of their non-ASD co-twins and typically developing twins, measured by both self and parent-report questionnaires.
Three groups of participants were included: 45 twins who met criteria for a research diagnosis of ASD (78% male; mean age 18 years 11 months); 24 non-ASD co-twins (33% male; mean age 18 years 11 months); 50 comparison twins (68% male; mean age 18 years 8 months). Parents of the twins were also invited to take part and three groups were included: 62 parents of ASD twins; 24 parents of non-ASD co-twins; and 56 parents of comparison twins. Parent- and twin-reports were independent, i.e. parents were not necessarily reporting on those twins who provided self-report data. Participants and their parents completed team-designed questions about education, employment and future plans as part of a wider research assessment.
The ASD group gained significantly fewer passes than the co-twin or comparison groups at GCSE (F=13.42, 2, p<.001), AS level (F=4.78, 2, p<.05) and A-level (F=8.21, 2, p<.001). The vast majority in all three sample groups were in post-16 education (96-98%) and planned to be in post-18 education (83-92%).
Parents and twins reported that the ASD group had fewer employment roles than the co-twin or comparison groups (parent-report: F=6.54, 2, p<.01; self-report: F=14.57, 2, p<.001). For the ASD group 20% of parents and 12% of twins reported requiring help in work, versus 0% of parents reporting on the co-twin or comparison groups, and only 9% of the co-twins by self-report (0% of comparison). For the ASD group the most frequently mentioned help was one-to-one support to keep on task.
The ASD twins were less likely to have considered what to do after leaving education, compared with the co-twin or comparison groups (parent-report: F=7.71, 2, p<.01; self-report: F=4.65, 2, p<.05). ASD young adults were also less likely to mention long-term relationships/marriage as something desirable in the future (parent-report: F=9.24, 2, p<.001; self-report: F=10.81, 2, p<.001). Parents rated ASD twins as less likely to want to live independently (F=6.60, 2, p<.01), but those ASD twins who provided self-report did not differ from the co-twin or comparison groups in terms of planning to live independently (F=2.94, 2, p=.06).
ASD twins had fewer examination passes, employment roles and were less concerned about future planning and long-term relationships compared to co-twins and non-ASD comparison twins. For both parents and ASD twins, worries about the future in terms of independence and coping were evident.