Health care transition services for youth with autism spectrum disorders

Rehabil Psychol. 2014 Aug;59(3):340-8. doi: 10.1037/a0036725. Epub 2014 Jul 14.


Objective: Little is known about accessibility to health care transition (HCT) services (HCT) for youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This study examined how often youth with ASD receive HCT services and how access varied by individual, family, and health system characteristics.

Method: Questionnaires were completed by 101 parents of youth with ASD (ages 12-17 years) enrolled in a national online autism registry. Descriptive statistics and bivariate analysis were used to examine a composite HCT variable and its components.

Results: Fewer than 15% of youth received HCT services. Although 41% received at least 1 HCT discussion, only 3% received all 3. One-quarter had a discussion with their health care provider about transitioning to an adult provider, adult health care needs, or insurance retention, and 31% of providers encouraged youth to take on more responsibilities. Most caregivers reported not needing 1 or more of the discussions. RESULTS varied significantly when the sample was divided by age, with older youth more likely to have received transition services than younger adolescents.

Conclusions: These findings indicate a significant disparity in access to HCT services for youth with ASD. Further research is needed to understand this disparity and develop interventions to improve HCT both for youth with ASD and those with other disabling health conditions. Additionally, many caregivers do not recognize the importance of HCT services. Education and training for caregivers, youth, and providers is essential to ensure all parties are working together to address transition issues early and often.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys / methods*
  • Health Care Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Parents
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transition to Adult Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States