Report on Autism to Congress Utilizes Drexel Autism Institute Report’s Findings

Flag of the Government Accountability Office

Flag of the Government Accountability Office

The landmark report of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute’s Life Course Outcomes research program served as the statistical basis for many of the findings in a recent Government Accountability Office report to Congress.

Using information from a panel that included Paul Shattuck, PhD, leader of the Life Course Outcomes program, and statistics from the Institute’s 2015 “National Autism Indicators Report: Transition Into Young Adulthood,” the GAO created a report that suggested adolescents transitioning into adulthood may need a “wide range of services and supports to help them achieve their goals.”

The GAO report was sent to Congress with the hope that it will be considered in future decisions that will affect those on the spectrum.

Research like what was produced by the Life Course Outcomes unit is relatively hard to come by, according to Shattuck, because funding priorities tend to favor autism research into childhood — or even the period before birth. Currently, just 1 percent of research dollars goes toward work focused on adulthood and the transition into it.

“The majority of a lifespan unfolds in adulthood, yet this is the stage of life we know the least about for people on the autism spectrum,” said Shattuck. “My team is committed to continued innovation and research to help this population.”

It was that team that produced the National Autism Indicators Report in 2015 that has influenced the GAO, media reports, advocacy groups and everything in between.

In the 2015 report, startling statistics such as these were uncovered:

  • 37 percent (roughly a third) of young adults with autism never got a job or pursued further education after high school during their early 20s
  • Approximately one in four young adults with autism are socially isolated
  • Just one in five of young adults with autism ever lived independently
  • More than 60 percent of young adults with autism have at least two physical or mental health issues separate from their autism diagnosis

Back in April, the federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee called the report one of the top 20 influential advances in autism research of 2015.

This year, a follow-up report focusing totally on a federal job assistance and services program for people with disabilities — called Vocational Rehabilitation — was released by the Life Course Outcomes team. “National Autism Indicators Report: Vocational Rehabilitation” showed that 60 percent of the people who left the program had jobs, but most earned wages below the federal poverty line.

A new report is scheduled for spring 2017, and the plan is to continue providing research that will drive the national discourse on growing up with autism.

“My vision for our Life Course Outcomes research program was to bridge what is typically a divide between ‘science’ and ‘service,’” Shattuck explained. “We have created a unified approach to doing rigorous research that is recognized by both the peer science community and policymakers as extremely high-impact.”

Media interested in speaking to Shattuck should contact Frank Otto at 215.571.4244 or