Representing one of the highest rates in the country, one in every 42 children in Minnesota is identified with autism spectrum disorder. Without intervention, adolescents risk a sharp decline in social support, stalled neurological progress, and a marked increase in depression and anxiety. Often shut off from educational and social supports that were available in childhood, adolescents experience significant roadblocks as they strive for independence. Similarly, young adults with autism can feel isolated and undervalued as members of our community. This project seeks to shift the status quo by pairing teens and adults with autism in one-to-one mentoring relationships as part of a strengths-based, psychosocial intervention - the Autism Mentorship Program. In partnership with the Autism Society of Minnesota, Bloomington Public Schools, and Minnesota Independence College and Community, this mixed-method proof-of-concept study will determine perceived impact of the program on youths' and adults' mental health and social connectedness.
Researcher: Lindsey Weiler (Family Social Science, College of Education and Human Development)