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STEM, Autism, High School and beyond

A new survey in Utah of students with IEPs who left school in 2011 found that 19% were neither in school nor employed one year after graduating. The numbers for those on the autism spectrum are considerably higher: Paul Shattuck of Drexel University claims that 35% of those on the spectrum between 19 and 23 have never had a job or had post-secondary education. How do we defend against such numbers? How do we ensure that our students, regardless of vocational interest or academic strength, regardless of ethnicity or economic background, have a meaningful future of employment and success? This is not a trivial matter. A recent survey conducted by SRI showed that while 39% of male students with an ASD majored in a STEM field, only 2% of girls did. Narrowing that gap is also going to be crucial to increasing the overall employment numbers for those on the spectrum.
One ingredient for success is solid preparation for transitioning between high school and college or career. Often, students have no idea what their strengths are, or even their interests. At Village Glen, the college and career counselor meets with each student a number of times a year, starting in 9th grade. We do interest and aptitude inventories, we talk about the options, about courses of study, the variety of colleges and certificated programs and what they offer, and possibilities for employment. We have college tours where students visit a college of their choice, we mount college fairs, and have career day when parents come in to talk to students about a variety of careers. Early preparation here is crucial: the student needs to be aware of what’s possible, what outcomes are likely given different choices, they need to be encouraged to believe that they can pursue their goal, that the only limits they have are those they set for themselves, and in this way they are able develop a concrete plan for their future.

A student-generated 2D game
A student-generated 2D game

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