The rising prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses, combined with
the importance of education to many aspects of quality of life in adulthood, makes
determining the educational outcomes of individuals with ASD an important
investigation. Two literature searches are conducted to determine first, the
educational outcomes for students with ASD, and second, the factors that contribute
to these outcomes. Subsequently, taking these findings into consideration, policy
recommendations regarding ways to better support students with ASD and facilitate
positive educational outcomes are proposed.
Based on the first literature search, the educational outcomes for individuals with
ASD are worse compared to many of their peers with disabilities as well as the
general population. In terms of secondary school, students with ASD generally
perform several levels below their grade level. In addition, in spite of their low drop
out rates, students with ASD have low secondary school completion rates. The postsecondary
outcomes of students with ASD are also not as good as they could be.
Similar to their secondary school performance, the post-secondary school
enrollment rate for students with ASD was lower when compared with many of
their peers with disabilities as well as neurotypicals. In addition, students with ASD
had one of the lowest post-secondary completion rates in comparison with other
students with disabilities.
Based on a second literature search, several individual factors, as well as factors
external to the individual, are identified as contributors to the educational outcomes
of students with ASD as determined by the first literature search. The individual
factors that contribute to these outcomes are: severity of the ASD condition,
functional ability and independence, social skills, and age and ethnicity. The factors
external to the individual that contribute to the aforementioned outcomes include:
the education system, family expectations, and family income. These factors all
interact in a complex way to influence educational outcomes for students with ASD.
Although it is not a simple task, these factors can be addressed through policy
changes. For example, changes can be made within the education system (i.e.
extending the transition period) as well as on a broader level (i.e. creating provincial
standards) in order to help improve educational outcomes for students with ASD.