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ERIC Number: ED574325
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 25
Abstractor: As Provided
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Participation among College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
Wei, Xin; Christiano, Elizabeth R.; Yu, Jennifer W.; Blackorby, Jose; Shattuck, Paul; Newman, Lynn A.
Grantee Submission
Little research has examined the popular belief that individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely than the general population to gravitate toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, a nationally representative sample of students with an ASD in special education. Data were collected on a total of 660 young adults with autism and/or their parents. The estimates in this report used weights from the wave 5 (2009) parent and young adult interviews. Descriptive analysis on the demographic variables, background characteristics, and postsecondary enrollment and STEM participation were performed. Pairwise comparisons between each other disability group and the ASD group were conducted using chi-square tests. For young adults with an ASD, logistic regression models were used to explore the associations between demographic and background characteristics and postsecondary enrollment or STEM participation outcomes. Findings suggest that students with an ASD had the highest STEM participation rates although their college enrollment rate was the third lowest among 11 disability categories and students in the general population. Disproportionate postsecondary enrollment and STEM participation by gender, family income, and mental functioning skills were found for young adults with an ASD. Older students with an ASD had significantly higher odds of majoring in STEM fields than younger students with an ASD. Young adults with an ASD from families in the three lower annual income groupings (<$25,000 group, $25,001 - $50,000 group, or $50,001 to $75,000) had significantly lower odds of enrolling in a 2-year or 4-year college than those with families in the highest annual income category (over $75,000). Young adults with higher mental functioning skills also had significantly higher odds of enrolling in college than their peers with lower mental functioning skills. When focusing on STEM majors, the odds of STEM majoring were 13 times higher among males with an ASD than females. In an era where a world-class science and engineering workforce is needed to remain competitive in a technologically advancing global economy, it becomes imperative to discover previously untapped sources of STEM talent. This study confirms that individuals with an ASD may indeed have the potential to become such a resource. The implications from these findings also support previous research indicating that postsecondary educational institutions need to provide extra supports and services for students with autism to complete their college degrees and navigate toward STEM careers. (Contains 5 tables.) [This report was published in "Autism Research and Treatment," v2014 Article ID 924182 2014.]
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Institute of Education Sciences (ED)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: National Longitudinal Transition Study of Special Education Students
IES Funded: Yes
Grant or Contract Numbers: R305A120300