Exploring ways to better support those on the autism spectrum with life after school was the focus of a seminar hosted by Griffith’s Autism Centre of Excellence (ACE) last month.

The seminar, ‘Preparing for life after school — successful transitions from school to post school for young people with autism’, was hosted in collaboration with the Autism Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

ACE Centre Director Professor Jacqueline Roberts said the seminar provided some practical insights into the challenges faced by people on the autism spectrum when entering the workforce, as well as ways to provide better support.

“While some people with autism do get jobs and live independently in the community rates of unemployment remains high, and significantly higher than for other disability groups,” Professor Jacqueline Roberts said.

“There is very little research into outcomes for adults with autism, particularly in Australia, however what research there is suggests quality of life for people with autism is the poorest of all disability groups.

“The social-communication characteristics of autism make the getting and retention of jobs highly challenging.”

Research shows for those who do succeed in competing for employment, often experience higher rates of co-morbid metal health problems, such as anxiety and depression.

Professor Roberts said these issues were often coupled with poor autism awareness in the typical population and autism unfriendly workplaces and community facilities.

“People with autism have significant talents and skill sets but are not able to contribute to society,” she said.

“However, we can improve this situation.”

There are strategies that can be implemented in work places, and in the community to increase autism friendliness.

According to keynote speaker, University of London Professor Patricia Howlin, having clear, consistent communication of expectations is critical, and providing a mentor who understands the characteristics of the person with autism can also improve outcomes.

With the right support people with autism can lead productive and fulfilled lives and society can benefit from their substantial skills and expertise, Professor Roberts said.

Keynote speaker, Professor Howlin, has extensive research knowledge and experience into the long term outcomes for people on the autism spectrum, and has been involved in the development and implementation of successful employment programs for people with autism.

Also presenting at the seminar was a young man with Asperger’s syndrome, Matthew Bennett, who is currently completed a PhD at Flinders University, and National Disability Insurance Scheme ‘Every Australian Counts’ campaign Queensland State Manager, Fiona Anderson.

The seminar attracted 50 teachers of young people with autism in high school, TAFE and University, as well as employers and professionals involved in transition and placement support for young people with autism, and is part of a seminar series being run by ACE, throughout 2014.

Future seminars in the series include:

  • July 17 & 18 — A seminar for parents of school age children with autism on working with their child’s school to improve educational outcomes.
  • August 16 — A seminar for professionals working with school age children and young people with autism featuring Professor Rita Jordan for the United Kingdom as Key Note speaker.
  • October 18 — A seminar for medical practitioners on advances in autism diagnosis, assessment and intervention.

For further information or to register your interest, please contact: [email protected] or 3735 5640.