14 SES 08 A, School-related Transitions Within a Life Course Perspective – Later Phases
Parallel Paper Session
This abstract draws on a range of research evidence in order to explore the process of transition to adulthood for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It provides a synopsis of youth transitions in European contexts in the last six decades (Marshall, 1992; Heinz, 2009) and highlights patterns of vulnerability for people with ASD. Presented findings focus on the nature of ASD and its impact on the transition as well as the conceptualisation of this process.
Although ‘overwhelmingly, the transition to adulthood has (...) been studied from the perspective of objective demographic markers (such as entry into marriage and parenthood)’ (Gauthier & Furstenberg, 2002, p. 154), it was the author’s intention to emphasise the subjectivity of these objective demographic markers. The minimum school leaving age in UK has remained unchanged at sixteen since 1972 (Furlong et al., 2003). However, relatively few young people across Europe now leave at this stage and most of them participate in some further education or training. Few, especially amongst people with ASD, are able to make the early and direct transitions to adulthood that were relatively common in the 1960s and 70s (Marshall, 1992). In this context, modern transitions have come to be viewed as marked by discontinuities, uncertainties and backtracking (EGRIS, 2001).
Nowadays, the borders between all phases of the life course have become blurred and fuzzy and the duration of all transitions relies more on individual choices and lifestyles (Heinz, 2009). Varying degrees of difficulty in conforming to these socially expected and culturally transmitted age-norms can be greatly increased when one is faced with a diagnosis of ASD (Howlin, 2004). Therefore, this project set out to explore the relevance of objective demographic markers for adults with ASD. This objective was consistent with the theoretical assumption that the transition to adulthood is a complicated phenomenon, related both to sociocultural and to cognitive processes. In essence, the underlying principle of this study was to explore the ecological validity of dominant developmental tasks approach: to examine whether the process of transition to adulthood for people with ASD can be defined by the concept which assumes that human development in modern societies is characterised by a long series of tasks that individuals have to learn throughout their lives in order to achieve happiness, approval of the society and success in completing later tasks (Bee & Bjorklund, 2008; Boyd & Bee, 2009).
The principal theoretical aim of this project was also to explore the notion of the transition to adulthood from the differing perspectives of service providers, service users and parents of adults with ASD across Scotland. Moreover, the study aimed to provide an account of the current situation regarding service provision for adults with ASD. A further significant line of this research was to study whether development, availability and awareness of appropriate service provision can or has affected the transitions made by the service users participating in this study.
Bee, H. L., & Bjorklund, B. R. (2008). The Journey of Adulthood (Sixth ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall. Boyd, D., & Bee, H. (2009). Lifespan Development (Fifth ed.). Boston: Pearson International Edition. European Group for Integrated Social Research (EGRIS). (2001) Misleading Trajectories: Transition Dilemmas of Young Adults in Europe. Journal of Youth Studies, 4(1), 101-118. Eaton, D. K., Kann, L., Kinchen, S., Shanklin, S., Ross, J., Hawkins, J., Harris, W. A., Lowry, R., McManus, T., Chyen, D., Lim, C., Whittle, L., Brener, N. D., & Wechsler, H. (2010). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Department Of Health And Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Vol. 59/No. SS-5. Furlong, A., Cartmel, F., Biggart, A., Sweeting, H., & West, P. (2003) Youth Transitions: Patterns of Vulnerability and Processes of Social Inclusion. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Social Research Enterprise. Gauthier, H. A., & Furstenberg, F. F., JR. (2002) The Transition to Adulthood: A Time Use Perspective. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 580(1), 153-171. Heinz, W. R. (2009) Youth transitions in an age of uncertainty. In A. Furlong (Ed.), Handbook of Youth and Young Adulthood. New Perspectives and Agendas. Oxon: Routledge. Howlin, P. (2004) Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Preparing for Adulthood (Second ed.). London and New York: Routledge. Taylor&Francis Group. Marshall, T. H. (1992) Citizenship and Social Class. London: Pluto. Silverman, D. (1993). Interpreting qualitative data. Newbury Park, California: SAGE Publications.
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