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Effective Practices for Helping Students with Neurodiversity Transition to Independent Living  

Ngonidzashe Mpofu, Elias M. Machina, Helen Dunbar-Krige, Elias Mpofu, and Timothy Tansey

School-to-community living transition programs aim to support students with neurodiversity to achieve productive community living and participation, including employment, leisure and recreation, learning and knowledge acquisition, interpersonal relationships, and self-care. Neurodiversity refers to variations in ability on the spectrum of human neurocognitive functioning explained by typicality in brain activity and related behavioral predispositions. Students with neurodiversity are three to five times more likely to experience community living and participation disparities as well as lack of social inequity compared to their typically developing peers. School-to-community transition programs for students with neurodiversity are implemented collaboratively by schools, families of students, state and federal agencies, and the students’ allies in the community. Each student with neurodiversity is unique in his or her school-to-community transition support needs. For that reason, school-to-community transition programs for students with neurodiversity should address the student’s unique community living and participation support needs. These programs address modifiable personal factors of the student with neurodiversity important for successful community living, such as communication skills, self-agency, and self-advocacy. They also address environmental barriers to community living and participation premised on disability related differences, including lack of equity in community supports with neurodiversity. The more successful school-to-community living transition programs for students with neurodiversity are those that adopt a social justice approach to full community inclusion.

Article

Autism Spectrum Disorders in Later Life  

Ye In (Jane) Hwang, Kitty-Rose Foley, Samuel Arnold, and Julian Trollor

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is typically recognized and diagnosed in childhood. There is no established biological marker for autism; rather, the diagnosis is made based on observation of behavioral traits, including (a) persistent deficits in social interaction and communication, and (b) restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, autistic individuals are a highly heterogeneous group and differ widely in the presentation and severity of their symptoms. The established prevalence of ASD is approximately 1% of the population. Information about autism in adulthood is limited; most of the literature examines childhood and adolescence. While the term “later life” has traditionally been associated with those over the age of 65, a dire lack of understanding exists for those on the autism spectrum beyond early adulthood. Individuals remain on the spectrum into later life, though some mild improvements in symptoms are observed over time. Autistic adults experience high levels of physical and mental health comorbidities. Rates of participation in employment and education are also lower than that of the general population. Quality of life is reportedly poorer for autistic adults than for nonautistic peers, though this is not affected by age. More robust studies of the health, well-being, and needs of autistic adults are needed, especially qualitative investigations of adulthood and aging and longitudinal studies of development over the lifespan.

Article

Autism, Neurodiversity, and Inclusive Education  

Sara M. Acevedo and Emily A. Nusbaum

A brief history of the emergence of the inclusive schools movement demonstrates its reliance on the pathologizing paradigms that are both the foundations and frameworks of traditional special education. Throughout this recent history, the utilization of a positivist approach to research and practice for autistic students, both those who are segregated and those who have access to mainstream classrooms, has maintained a person-fixing ideology. Instead, a neurodiversity framework adopts an integrative approach, drawing on the psychosocial, cultural, and political elements that effectively disrupt the systematic categorization of alternative neurological and cognitive embodiment(s) and expressions as a host of threatening “disorders” that must be dealt with by cure, training, masking, and/or behavioral interventions to be implemented in the classroom. Centering the personal, lived experiences and perspectives of autistic and otherwise neurodivergent activists and scholars affiliated with the U.S. neurodiversity movement offers an emancipatory lens for representing and embodying neurological differences beyond traditional special education’s deficit-based discourses and practices. This emphasis on political advocacy and cultural self-authorship effectively challenges unexamined, universalizing assumptions about whose bodyminds are “educable” and under what auspices “educability” is conceptualized and written into special-education curricula.