A study published in the journal of autism and developmental disorders found that students with autism choose majors in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at a higher rate than students in the general population. Yet student with autism enroll into college at lower rates. People with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)  show a disproportionately greater aptitude towards systemizing rather than empathizing. In other words, they show a greater aptitude towards analyzing the world around them rather than having emotional and social reactions to the world around them.

A recent study from SRI International for the U.S. Department of Education called NLTS2 showed that young adults with ASD who do attend college are most likely to pursue STEM majors. However, they also have one of the lowest overall college enrollment rates. The general idea on people with ASD is that they are better at these STEM fields. Although there are not a lot of papers and studies on this correlation the NLTS2 study confirm that individuals with an ASD are more likely to gravitate towards STEM. Statistics showed that the STEM major rate (34.31%) for young adults with an ASD was higher than those with other disabilities and higher than the 22.80% of students in the general population that declared a major in STEM.

Even though these facts may hold true, it is also true that enrollment into post-secondary schools is low. In fact, it is the third lowest of all the disability categories. WE can only predict that with time this change, and enrollment goes up. With advances being made in early identification and treatment of children with ASD, we can only hope that the enrollment numbers continue to increase.

One of the main aspects of autism is the need for routine and consistency, changes in these two things can be damaging to their progress, which can prove to be a problem when entering a post-secondary education. The main way to help cushion this downfall is by helping children acquire the necessarily like skills early on so that they are better prepared to deal with the challenges up ahead. Cognitive and life skills are two important part of academic success.

In an era where a world-class science and engineering workforce is needed to remain competitive, studies are able to confirm that people with ASD prove to be advantageous in these fields and can be a major resource for the technologically advancing economy.

Daniela Zapata

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