Transitional Independent Living


Keeping Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Employed

Young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have trouble finding employment and many are unable to sustain jobs for long periods of time. ASD is much more common today than in years past. Currently it is estimated that 1 in 68 (CDC, 2014) children in the United States have ASD. Prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68). (CDC, 2014).  Rates of employment for adults with an ASD are also low across studies, with only 25% – 50% of adults with ASD engaging in paid employment. Further, many of those who obtain jobs are often employed below their level of education and have difficulty maintaining stability.

A lack of participation in educational and employment activities in the years after high school has been associated with poor behavioral outcomes. Many young adults with autism simply aren’t capable of handling the transition into adulthood, even with support. As evidenced from research, sometimes bad habits are somewhat ingrained in young adults with ASD. This can make functioning in job roles more difficult later on in life. Some families have found support through the New Directions Organization ( The comprehensive nature of the services found under one roof at New Directions helps to round out young adults socially. This also provides support for vocational success, and often the ability to pursue new activities that are personally meaningful.

Young adults with ASD that are “high functioning” may benefit most from jobs that challenge their intelligence, but do not rely so heavily on short term memory. Examples of jobs that “High functioning” ASD young adults must avoid include waiters/waitresses, cashier, short order cooks, taxi dispatchers. More favorable jobs for this population includes accounting, journalism and various engineering jobs. It may take an experienced professional to recognize a person’s potential, provide an environment that challenges them, and simultaneously treat the varying clinical symptoms.  Vocational staff at New Directions are continually making new contacts with businesses in the community so as to better provide a variety of vocational opportunities.

With so many young adults being diagnosed without adequate treatment being available, the demand for services from multidisciplinary transitional programs like New Directions for Young Adults ( has increased.  Programs such as NDFYA have helped countless young adults (with and without ASD) rebuild their lives, while finding and keeping employment that suits them personally and professionally. NDFYA has achieved this with a unique clinical modal (Dt2), that allows students to work on every aspect of their life; including vocational education, job acquisition, and regular job maintenance activities (to ensure continued employment).

New Directions( offers customized vocational education programs, which are part of a larger, comprehensive program that is both clinical and life-skills based. The vocational aspect of the students’ individualized treatment plan involves a one-on-one customizable treatment program. This has proven very effective at helping young adults with ASD acquire a job via NDFYA, specifically in an environment that is best suited to their emotional and social characteristics. With the help of specialized vocational programming, young adults with ASD can cultivate a specific skillset. Afterwards these young adults can more successfully enter the workforce.

The path to entering the workforce starts with setting realistic and attainable goals, which is essential for young adults with ASD to get on the right vocational track.  These goals are part of a customized individual treatment plan, which is carefully laid out, communicated regularly with parents (with permission to help encourage involvement and support).  The initial plan is developed using input from the student, the family, transcripts, standardized test scores, psycho-educational reports, and results from assessments administered by New Directions. Long and short-term goals are then developed in the main target areas which typically include educational, vocational, life management, and psychosocial.

If you would like to learn more about the New Directions program, Direction Therapy (CMT), or set up a program tour, please reach out to us today at


Some typical Vocational skills that are taught to young adults include:




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