International Meeting for Autism Research: The Role of Parental Expectations In Predicting Post-High School Outcomes for Youth with ASD

The Role of Parental Expectations In Predicting Post-High School Outcomes for Youth with ASD

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
2:00 PM
J. L. Taylor1 and P. Shattuck2, (1)Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Nashville, TN, (2)George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
Background:   There is considerable variability in post-high school outcomes of young adults with ASD.  Underemployment is common, and many young adults continuing living with their parents or in supported settings after leaving high school.  Research examining predictors of independence among adults with ASD has focused on characteristics of the adult that are difficult to change, such as early language or IQ.  The present study focused on one malleable factor that is related to adult outcomes in typically developing individuals: parental expectations.

Objectives:   This study had two objectives: 1) to describe parents’ expectations for the post-high school educational, occupational, and residential outcomes of their son or daughter with ASD; and 2) to determine the correspondence between parental expectations and outcomes.

Methods:   This study used data from waves 1 and 4 of the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 (NLTS2), a nationally representative, 10-year longitudinal survey of adolescents in special education.  Participants for this study included 390 parents whose son or daughter had received a diagnosis of ASD through the school system and had exited high school by wave 4.

Parental expectations were assessed at wave 1, while youth were still in high school, with the following questions: “How likely do you think it is that (youth) will:” 1.) “graduate from a 4-year college;” 2.) “eventually will get a paid job;” 3.) “eventually live away from home on (his/her) own without supervision.”  The son or daughter’s educational activities, current living arrangement, and work status were measured at wave 4.  Severity of impairment (conversational ability, social communication, mental skills) was statistically controlled in all analyses. 

Results:   One-quarter (27%) of parents expected that their son or daughter would graduate from a 4-year college, 88% expected that their son or daughter would work for pay, and one-half expected that he or she would live outside the home without supports.  Family income was not independently related to parents’ expectations that their son or daughter would attain a 4-year degree or live outside of the home without supports.  Families with higher incomes were more likely to expect that their son or daughter would work for pay, B=.08, p<.01.  Only 39% of youth whose parents said they “definitely would” graduate from a 4-year college were currently enrolled or had graduated; 45% of youth whose parents said the “definitely would” live away from home independently were currently doing so.  After controlling for income and severity, parental expectations were marginally related to whether the son or daughter was living independently or enrolled in/graduated from a 4-year university, OR=2.09 and 2.70, respectively, ps>.10.  Parental expectations did, however, predict the likelihood that youth would be working for pay, OR=6.05, p<.01.

Conclusions:   For many parents of youth with ASD, expectations for their son or daughter’s post-high school living arrangements and education may not be realized.  Expectations for paid employment, however, may increase the likelihood of post-high school employment.

Funding sources:  R01 MH086489-01, P30 HD15052

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