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Few Young Adults With Autism Living Independently


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Young adults with autism are more likely to live with their parents and least likely to live independently after leaving high school as compared to those with other types of disabilities, researchers say.

Only about 17 percent of young adults on the spectrum ages 21 to 25 have ever lived independently. By comparison nearly 34 percent of their peers with intellectual disability have, researchers reported online recently in the journal Autism.

Since leaving high school, the vast majority of young adults with autism — nearly 9 in 10 — have spent at least some time living with a parent or guardian, the study found. And most have never tried another living situation.

“As the prevalence of ASDs continues to rise, so too does the number of young adults transitioning into adulthood,” wrote Kristy Anderson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her colleagues in their findings. “The evidence presented in this study suggests that the vast majority of this population will be residing in the parental or guardian home during the period of emerging adulthood.”

For the study, researchers looked at the experiences of 620 individuals with autism from across the country. They were compared with 450 individuals with intellectual disability, 410 with learning disabilities and 380 with emotional disturbance who were all part of the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, a long-term federally-funded survey of students in special education and their parents.

“Young adults with an ASD resided with a parent or guardian at higher rates and for longer periods of time after leaving high school than young adults with ED, LD or (intellectual disability). Moreover, young adults with an ASD had the highest rate of supervised living arrangements and the lowest rate of independent living since leaving high school,” the study found.

Researchers behind the new report said the findings suggest that further study is needed to evaluate how to improve transition planning to best meet the needs of those with autism.

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Comments (23 Responses)

  1. MsAmericanPatriot says:

    Well it is expensive and most do not have jobs and if they do they do not pay well enough. Section 8 housing is usually located on the most DANGEROUS side of town. If living in them it is like living on the African plains with the autistics being like zebras and the normals are the hyenas. Home with mommy and daddy is the safest place to be and the cheapest too.

  2. marie camp says:

    The more life skills you teach them at home and in school help tremdeously for independent life.We taught our son laundry, putting dishes in the dishwasher, and making his bed, make a sandwhich. School taught him to wipe tables down, grocery shopping, sweeping. He was in school 22 yrs. and took a long time to grasp but the key is start early and be persistant. James is 32 and is a non verbal autistic and happily lives independently on his own with supported sevices.


    As a parent of an adult with autism this does not surprise me. Our young adults typically don’t have friends. This means they don’t have the opportunity to share an apartment or to be influenced by friends who do. Most of their social life is arranged and/or facilitated by parents. Often they are less aware of their surroundings and would be unsafe living totally on their own. Personally my individual is relatively high functioning but so distracted that some supervision is still needed. The goal is to be independent and we work on it but would not be safe and social interaction would be next to nothing. I have fostered many with disabilities and they are independent so I am not an overprotective parent. Having friends that you can turn to for companionship, help, transportation, inspiration, and support, is very important to independent life and most of those with autism do not have that support.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Wonder what the wait list for assisted living is state to state forautistic kids reaching age of maturity

  5. Genesis says:

    This isn’t new… I’m Autistic and 23 years old living with my parents.

  6. F. Dang says:

    It depends in which state a person lives in. Some states have good support. I know of individuals who have the diagnosis of Autism that are employed fixing computer in a big retail store. The have job coaches that work with the store’s manager’s to help them fit in a working environment. The also have Independent Living Skills worker that help them live on their own. They are taught how to budget, purchase necessary items, cook, clean their apartments, etc. and dependening on the individual they have contact with their workers after hours if need be. They don’t’ pay for the services It’s provided by the state through a private agency.

  7. Thomas C. Wood says:

    I myself am @ Age 55, not really fully independent.

    Both parents are deceased.

    Still living with younger brother who inherited the family home.

    Anyway, I have both Mild Autism and Cerebral Palsy.

    I did have intermittent employment when younger.

    Had to mostly give that up to care for a parent, my late Mother, who was psychotic and insane for decades, since my very early childhood.

    My younger non-disabled brother also had to give up a career in Electrical Engineering to care for the deranged insane parent, our Mother too.

    Not surprised @ this finding.


  8. Electric_Pink says:

    Community living in group homes with other individuals who have ID/DD would be an option. Residential group homes, licensed and properly run, offer individuals the opportunity to gain a measure of independence and greater socialization. Top-performing group homes are located in typical neighborhoods and give no indication that it’s a group home for people with ID/DD. That’s part of the appeal of community living because the individuals are integrated into mainstream society as much as possible. I know several individuals with autism who are successfully supported in group homes who have housemates with like interests and abilities. They maintain close relationships with their family members while being active, contributing members of the community. Medicaid waivers would help pay the costs of support in addition to other types of disability funding. The key is to obtain the funding, which is a feat in itself in many states where waiting lists are decades-long.

  9. Diane says:

    My son, who is 23 and on the spectrum, continues to live at home. I chose to not apply for SSD for him, so living ‘on his own’ is not an affordable option. He continues to require therapy and family support. He will be on his own one day, but as it takes him longer than others to learn the skills and how to tackle them, he will be home. The supports just aren’t out there for him.

  10. Greg Kaiser says:

    The goal for any adult, disabled or not, is independent living. Congratulations Marie for forcing the issue. Teaching safety and responsibility is a part of the solution. The other part is connecting activities. Connections to social groups, connection to services, and connection through employment no matter what the wage is. While autism is debilitating, it is not so debilitating that the expectation for independent living should be given up on no matter how long it takes. Independent living programs exist across the country. Transitional group homes and supported employment programs exist. Do a Google search for services in your area and be willing to place your trust in these organizations. Also, talk to your vocational rehabilitation counselors about what additional services exist to support your autistic adult’s goal to live their own life.

  11. Whitney says:

    Kathleen in Texas it is 10 years for the services. If you qualify for the services but as job coaching where I live it is a joke but in East Texas you can be trained in Computers. Of course Texas in near the bottom of the list in fact only one state in the UNion has worse services and that is MS. We are rank 2nd to last in servicing the disabled. I been advocating unilateral equality of services through the states govern by national level.

  12. Whitney says:

    The problem is not all services are provided in equal fashion across this nation. There are many issues here. To be blunt it is a crime is also not equal in some areas as well. In my neck other than having the usual amount of crime there is the Juarez cartels. Section 8 services the poor areas to house people with disabilities housing people not making sure they are safe is not important. Drugs are rampant in projects or Section 8. Most people with autism are not making enough to find safer neighborhoods and this is not because they cannot do the job or not. To get jobs you finesse your way through HR that takes soft people skills that is not innate to autism. It the social skills which comes instinctual to non autistics and somethings can not be taught. For autistics we can mimic what is needed for social interaction if there are no deviation outside of the normal behavior routine. Nuero-typicals deviate from social rules where makes hard how to respond to. So we freeze up and go silient and disengage. Not to mention that if people want to autism to be independent they need jobs and last discussion people scream bloody murder if a disabled person makes equal pay non-disabled. So that is another reason it is not going to happen living independently. It is harsh reality of people who really want to do google searches….people look at an area where the highest rate murder, rape and sex offenders live.

    Most importantly the state you live in plays a big role if a person can live independently. Why do you think we rate states on services because this is what get one state does not mean get in another? Do not act like one state services goes not another it does not.

    Like saying to Autistic you have to be more social

    I want to say to NT to be less social.

  13. DF says:

    In Pennsylvania, there is a Medicaid Waiver program called the Autism Waiver. It is a very small waiver and is not able to serve a lot of people, so there is a long waiting list. There are also IDD Waivers, but to be eligible for those one’s primary diagnosis must be IDD. And, again, there are long waiting lists for obtaining waiver funding. It stands to reason that fewer people with autism live more independently as there just aren’t the funds for adequate support. I expect that will change down the road, but we’re just not there yet.

  14. Damon D. Dukes says:

    I can relate to this as an 25 year old Autistic adult thankfully there’s an Autism Center on the Campus of Southern Illinois who’s trying to help me even though I’m no longer a student there(I am currently doing online schooling with Liberty U). I’m still adjusting to life on my own though but one day I might go back to Tennessee with my mother and two brothers. As an Autistic Adult, it is hard living on our own out here especially when it comes to jobs. I’ve been turned down about 3 times my mom believe it’s because I’m being discriminated because of being Autistic and it’s to a point that I believe it’s true. It’s like we live in a culture that we’re forced to be social or we don’t go anywhere in life but I believe God is going to bless us Auties (Children or Adults) I’m thankful for a mother who loves me and understands my struggle as an Autistic adult.

  15. April says:

    Not surprised with the article. Services are funded in early intervention, but are not often funded for teens or the late diagnosed. Teaching independent social skills does not seem to be a big priority when it comes to Government funded projects. Government will spend billions on science research but barely a dime to teach and encourage independence. Regional Centers will not often provide needed services, they say schools are suppose to provide those services until the child / teen ages out.
    The system needs to change.

  16. Lisa says:

    what would be especially interesting beyond this study is long term outcome of therapies like ABA and other therapies such as floortime and RDI – what are the long term outcomes of individuals who receive a specific type of intervention.

  17. crystal says:

    They probally never will because most have seizures and cannot be left alone..i used to think my son could live independently but that all changed last Oct when he had a seizure at 18 years old and then another one 6 mo later that resulted in severe injury.

  18. Allison Kramer says:

    There needs to be sensory friendly living. Apartments built for those who cannot live in an any situation neighborhood. The place needs to be QUIET, free from the madness of dogs barking and kids screaming all day long. Free from being right up against traffic and low crime. There needs to be a bus like those in senior/retirement living. There needs to be job opportunities and daily supports for the stress ordinary life brings to us all. Why isn’t this explored enough? SSDI compatible, not only for young adults with wealthy parents.

  19. KMF says:

    I have 2 adult children with autism. 22 & 24. Love them more than life itself. They are doing great. They have got tons of services. They are both at home. Most people do not understand how hard it is though to take care of all the paperwork, and more importantly to teach your kids about situational awareness and to take care of themselves. They are both awesome people and they see the world in a different cool way. They see the world, as good. It is our job to ensure they are taking care of, and that more importantly, that they can take care of themselves, long after we are gone. Autism is not a bad thing, rather, a gift.

  20. Laura Nadine says:

    Many of us on the spectrum live with parents and with the help of others, not because we can’t manage our money, but rather because we are not paid well for our work. I am not taken seriously by many, talked to like a child, and paid a fraction of what NT colleagues are paid. I tried to go to college, but I couldn’t secure scholarships because of the NT bias, so now I carry a federal loan debt that will not go away and I cannot afford to pay. Many of us do not need transition planning or to have our futures determined for us. We just need opportunity and equality.

  21. Avi Satlow says:

    I mostly agree with Laura N. People with ASD mostly need equality and acceptance not increased quantity of services. I have ASD myself living 100% independently right now. I’d rather live in a group home than with my parents. Not everyone with autism WANTS to make friends/be included (some do, some don’t). Saying this when meeting 50+ people with ASD. If you parents want those with ASD to live independently and improve transition, the goal cannot be “normal” and there needs to be a way to live safely WITHOUT friendship/informal social connections. It is not about what you parents want for adults with ASD but what your son/daughters with ASD want (two very different things). Until parents and outsiders accept people with autism as DIFFERENT and sometimes ANTISOCIAL individuals, very few with ASD will live independently. I don’t go to social groups because I choose not to go to them. I don’t want to make friends (but lots of people want me to be theirs). I still live independently free of supervision regardless. If you think I’m the only one, ask your son/daughter if community integration is an interest of theirs and you may be surprised with what you hear.

  22. jeannie says:

    My 25 year old son is nonverbal, autistic and he lives in his own apartment through supported living services in California. It took a lot of jumping through bureaucratic hoops, and still takes maintenance and oversight, but it is an awesome situation. He is so much more happy and independent than he was living with his parents.I am happy to share tips and any experience I have that may help others.

    Ray’s Mom,

  23. Wendy says:


    Please share more details on how you were able to get supported living services for your non verbal son. We are in California also and was told the client needs to be able to communicate their wants and needs in order to get supported living. Is your son able to communicate via typing? You can private message me, but I don’t know how w/o posting my email. Thanks.

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