14 SES 07 A, School Related Transitions within a Life Course perspective III
The focus of this study was the transition to adulthood for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In contrast to the fact that transitions are usually defined in the psychoanalytic and cognitive-developmental tradition as specific developmental tasks (Bee, 2012), the aim of this study was to depict the continuous, fluid and indefinable nature of all life transitions.
As Lefrançois (1999) points out, progress in one area of life can be accompanied by retrograde steps in another. Each transition consists of tiny molecules – our choices, learning processes, emotions, behaviours and reactions. These molecules at different stages in our lives flow freely in our worlds or join other molecules to create a bigger particle - a string of energy, a skill, a new experience or a new period in life. This vision of transition is an explicit theme of this abstract and is derived from the core of human life – that is change, yet continuity.
According to Stewart (2006), there are similar barriers and challenges faced by people with disabilities when making the transition to adult life. Lack of information or support and disjoined services unable to meet the needs of disabled adults are only some examples (Stewart et al., 2006). Transitional challenges for individuals with ASD are also reflected in some of the most common parental concerns regarding this process (Seltzer et al., 2003), such as behavioural problems or social and communicative difficulties. Others have a more systemic nature, i.e. concerns about relationships with professionals or independence and future services (Seltzer et al., 2003).
Since the process of transition to adulthood for people with ASD can be affected by various factors and its nature is very complex, it is misleading to imply that it is a non-fluctuating and easily definable state. There are multiple explanations for this and one of them is that the processes of maturation and development interact with the manifestation of the core symptoms of ASD and affect the acquisition of skills (Burack et al., 2001). Furthermore, because ASD involves both the absence of behaviours associated with normal development and the presence of autistic features (Howlin, 2004), it is possible that these two types of symptoms of ASD play an equally important role in shaping developmental trajectories.
In some cases, the process of reaching maturity and making the transition into adult life can be further hindered by changes in diagnostic criteria occurring over time. In general, earlier diagnostic criteria were narrower (Fombonne et al., 2001), so that individuals diagnosed at earlier points in time had to have had more severe manifestations of the disorder to qualify as having ASD than those diagnosed more recently (Magnusson & Saemundsen, 2001). However, a number of follow-up studies of individuals with ASD indicate that those who have less severe limitations, especially in language, tend to have better outcomes (Howlin, 2004; Howlin et al., 2004). However, there has been relatively little written about outcome in adulthood (Hendricks & Wehman, 2009), especially for adults with AS or HFA (Howlin, 2003).
Bee, H. (2012). Lifespan Development. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers. Burack, J. A., Evans, D. W., Klaiman, C., & Iarocci, G. (2001). The mysterious myth of attentional deficit and other defect stories: Contemporary issues in the developmental approach to mental retardation. International Review of Research in Mental Retardation, 24, 300–321. Fombonne, E., Simmons, H., Ford, T., Meltzer, H., & Goodman, R. (2001). Prevalence of pervasive developmental disorders in the British nationwide survey of child mental health. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 40. Hendricks, D. R., & Wehman, P. (2009). Transition From School to Adulthood for Youth With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Review and Recommendations. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 24(2), 77-88. Howlin, P. (2003). Outcome in high-functioning adults with autism with and without early language delays: implications for the differentiation between autism and Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 33(1), 3-3. Howlin, P. (2004). Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Preparing for Adulthood (Second ed.). London and New York: Routledge. Taylor&Francis Group. Howlin, P., Goode, S., Hutton, J., & Rutter, M. (2004). Adult outcome for children with autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(2), 212-229. Lefrançois, G. R. (1999). The Lifespan (Sixth ed.). Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company. Magnusson, P., & Saemundsen, E. (2001). Prevalence of autism in Iceland. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32: 153–163. Seltzer, M.M., Krauss, M.W., Shattuck, P.T., Orsmond, G., Swe, A., and Lord, C. (2003). The symptoms of autism spectrum disorders in adolescence and adulthood. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33, 565–581. Stewart, D. (2006). Evidence to Support a Positive Transition into Adulthood for Youth with Disabilities. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 26(4), 1-24. Stewart, D., Stavness, C., King, G., Antle, B., & Law, M. (2006). A critical appraisal of literature reviews about the transition to adulthood for youth with disabilities. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 26(4), 5-24.
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