We Belong Too
Teenagers on the spectrum struggle with education, bullying and stress, and parents lack confidence that educators are well-informed about autism
Published in 2013, the We Belong Too research report into 12-17 year old adolescents on the autism spectrum revealed that many strugged with bullying, mental health issues, and the challenges of schooling. Less than half reported having good friends; and despite the young people themselves being optimistic about their future, their parents were not so confident.
We Belong Too: the experiences, needs and service requirements of adolescents on the autism spectrum was the first time adolescents on the autism spectrum were directly surveyed in a study of this scale, along with parents, to create a statistically sound profile of the life experiences, aspirations and future support needs of this growing group of young Australians on the spectrum. the study surveyed 100 adolescents on the spectrum, and 65 parents, across Australia between November 2012 and June 2013. This Australian-first research builds on the Aspect We Belong study in 2011 into adults on the autism spectrum, which had identified that adolescence for those on the autism spectrum was defined by interrupted school pathways, relentless bullying and discrimination, and unmet education needs.
The We Belong Too report showed that 65% of parents did not believe educators are well informed about autism. With 3 in 4 teens on the spectrum (74%) reporting difficulty paying attention and concentrating in class, a new generation of students hoping to enter the workforce within a few years are potentially at a significant disadvantage.
Key findings of the report include:
- Lost in class: 3 in 4 teens on the autism spectrum (74%) have difficulty paying attention and concentrating in class.
- Bullying and discrimination: 3 in 4 parents (74%) report their child needs more support to cope with bullying.
- Lonely and anxious: The study confirmed a high prevalence of mental health issues in adolescents on the spectrum, with 66% needing help coping with stress, and 73% feeling lonely.
Demand for more autism-friendly sport & hobby groups: 1 in 2 teens on the spectrum (57%) belong or would like to belong to a hobby or sports group, raising questions as to whether local groups are ready and able to include more autism-friendly approaches.
- Future hopes: even though the majority of adolescents surveyed were optimistic about their future, their parents were not so confident – pointing to uncoordinated, unaffordable support services that are unsuitable for preparing adolescents on the spectrum for independent living.