Objectives: The goal of this project was to inventory policies and programs from Canadian provinces that exist to support persons with ASD in the area of transportation, to assess what is being done well, what is being missed and where promising policies or programs exist.
Methods: A systematic literature review by dual reviewers was completed to locate all peer reviewed literature regarding transportation and ASD. Grey literature documents were also examined for transportation related findings. Follow this, the researchers created a map of transportation needs for 3 hypothetical individuals on the spectrum through adolescents and adulthood. The individual case studies were of 1) A non-verbal individual with IQ under 70 and behavioral challenge 2) An individual with autism, IQ over 70 living with anxiety and depression 3) An individual with Aspergers Syndrome with social and sensory challenges. In consultation with local community groups the possible unmet transportation needs were identified for each individual and different life stages. The researchers then searched government websites over a 4 month period using key words; autism, Aspergers, cognitive disability, and brain injury combined with transportation or travel.
Results: There is a gap in research and policy regarding transportation issues and needs for all individuals on the ASD spectrum. Grey literature consistently notes transportation as a barrier to accessing services. Several peer-reviewed research papers identified transport as a cost but only one paper documented the challenges of transportation, specifically of children and adolescents using special needs bus transport. Related research for those living with intellectual disability suggests that the use of IT strategies may assist some to increase independence. Transit systems are complex with most transit services and programs delivered at a municipal level. This results in different services and quality not only across provinces but within provinces. Municipal transit upgrades for disability needs were common, but were usually related to the needs of seniors, physical and sensory (visual and hearing) disabilities. Transit training programs were available in some municipalities but lacked information of strategies for ASD and challenging behaviours.
Conclusions: There is an extensive range of transportation challenges across the spectrum. There is an urgent need for more research, policies and programs to advance the transportation opportunities for adolescents and adults living with ASD.
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