This, coupled with other symptoms of autism, can have serious ramifications for young adults. Those numbers are steep, and they don't have to be.Eighty-one percent of autistic people between high school and their early 20s have never lived independently; 68% have never lived apart from their parents; 64% have had no education after high school; and 42% aren't employed, according to the 2015 National Autism Indicators Report published by Drexel University's A. Laugeson and other researchers say many of the right social skills — for getting a job and keeping it, for making and maintaining friendships, and for dating — can be taught, just as the underlying rules of a foreign language can be broken down and explained.They pushed to keep Joey in regular classrooms, moving from Downey to Whittier, where they found better support for students with autism.Joey started speaking again about age 10, emerging as a hardworking high school student and earning a 4.3 GPA. In his second year, Joey noticed he was struggling socially; in his fourth year, he found himself losing many friends. Joey moved past that difficult period, and he's now a student in UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies hoping to research the challenges that college students with autism face in navigating campus life.Standing in front of a conference room table on the UCLA campus, Albert Miranda fixes a wide smile on his face and stares at Elina Veytsman, giving her the once-over. The students around the table giggle as the tension rises. Elina, the program's coordinator, and Albert, a Ph D student trainee from the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, then act out a slightly more successful scenario: Albert glances up with a brief smile, and looks away. Elina, charmed, returns the eye contact and smiles. Laugeson, an assistant clinical professor at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, laughs and turns to the whiteboard to go through the dos and don'ts of "flirting with your eyes:" Don't smile with teeth; don't stare.Then Elizabeth Laugeson steps in."What was that like for Elina? Glance up briefly — but repeat the process a few times.Tentatively, the students put on some music, and then get to talking.Soon, they're huddling over each other's cellphones, exchanging numbers. After a recent social event, Margaret says, Joey and some friends went to a bar.
The news comes soon after it was revealed that Gomez has been spending time with her ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber.
There's silence, and then Peter, the class jokester, quips: "Cricket, cricket."Most of the class titters nervously, but Breanna cracks up. There's a saying familiar to autism researchers: If you meet one person with autism, you've met one person with autism. The students are, by any rubric, a diverse lot: black, white and Latino; male and female; some who have finished high school and others who are working on graduate degrees.
Some, such as 26-year-old Monica Romero, found out only recently that they were on the spectrum; others, such as Breanna, were diagnosed at a very young age.
That's the goal of the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills, or PEERS."A lot of people think that social skills in general are innate, that you're hard-wired in some way and that you either are born with social skills or you're not," Laugeson says. "One of the things I like about this class is it helps one be more in tune to other people's needs and desires," says Joey Juarez, 25.
"But I think what PEERS has established is that this is actually a set of skills that can be learned, that you don't have to be born with them."Part of that, she says, is practicing different scenarios: how to plan a date; how to offer to pay at the end of dinner; how to politely decline spending the night, without reprimanding the person for asking. Some students in the class are quiet by nature; Joey is not. But before he was 3, his parents started to worry that he might have a hearing problem.