The Autism Research Centre, funded by ART, is embarking on a new study to find out whether children with autism are at a higher risk of falling into the NEET category – Not in Education, Employment, or Training. With two thirds of autistic adults experiencing anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, this study is more important than ever.

Led by professor Simon Baron-Cohen, the researchers will be looking into a database of children with recognised special educational needs analysing their risk of ending up in what the UK government calls NEET, and whether autism in particular brings about an elevated risk.

The database is the National Pupil Database – which records a range of data on thousands of children across the UK. They will also use online surveys and focus groups to capture parents’ experiences and produce policy guidelines based on their findings.

The importance of this research

Social communication difficulties make children on the autistic spectrum particularly vulnerable to negative life experiences, both at home and at school. Many report being bullied, excluded, exploited, and feeling marginalized.

Mariann Kovacs, who is analysing the data, said “We hope that this project will provide families, carers and schools with more insight into how life experiences impact an autistic child’s emotional state and learning, and what long-term interventions are needed to support these vulnerable children, so that they can fulfil their potential”.

We could use this evidence to advise policy-makers and educators how to best help autistic children and adolescents.

- Dr Sarah Griffiths, who is co-supervising the PhD

More research means more support

This research is funded by the Autism Research Trust and law firm Mishcon de Reya, and is supported by Gesher School, which provides a specialist learning environment for autistic children and those with related special needs.

Sarah Sultman and Ali Durban, co-founders of Gesher School, commented:

“Collaborations between funders like these help bring about social change on many levels. Early intervention is critical for autistic children and this research will give an insight into how schools can best help”.

At the Autism Research Trust, we believe that research is key to improve the quality of life of autistic people and their families. If you wish to support more research like this, please donate online today. Thank you.

Thankfully we are now shining a light on mental health, its causes, risk factors, and protective factors. Understanding a child’s journey into NEET and if autistic children are more at risk of this outcome is of huge importance if we are to improve mental health in young people.

- Professor Simon Baron-Cohen

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