Information from more than 3,500 autistic adults and caregivers is included in the Pennsylvania Autism Needs Assessment study, the largest of its kind in the nation.
Anne Bale, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) said there was a great need for information about people living with autism.
"While it's a prevalent condition, still there's not a lot known about autism and the struggles that families and children and adults with autism face," said Bale. "So we wanted to gather some basic information about what it's like to be an autistic individual or a family caring for someone with autism in Pennsylvania."
Autism affects about 30,000 children and adults statewide. 85 percent of those also have other diagnoses such as an intellectual disability, physical health challenge, or mental health issues.
Bale said two–thirds of autistic adults are unemployed or underemployed. She said the study found that autistic adults want a better way to seek training for social skills.
"Many of them can work, but it's that lack of training of social skills that they need that would allow them to hold down a job," Bale said. "So that's something we need to strive for in Pennsylvania: finding a better way to train for social skills and job skills for people with autism."
Bale said they also found individuals living in rural areas have a more difficult time accessing support services such as doctors, dentists, and other professionals trained to understand the challenges associated with autism. 48 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties are designated as rural.
According to Bale, the DPW will use the study to help them develop effective policy, but "we want others to use the findings for the study as well, because I think serving this population is going to take more than just a government effort."