Special Education

Easter Seals Survey Offers Views From Parents of Adults With Disabilities

By Christina A. Samuels — November 05, 2010 2 min read
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The advocacy and support group Easter Seals has released a survey that captures the feelings of the parents of adult children with disabilities, who are largely worried about their childrens’ future.

The Living With Disabilities survey, conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by life insurance company MassMutual, also gathered the responses of adults with disabilities, who are far more optimistic about their own prospects. But the group of adults with disabilities who responded to the survey are such an unusual sample that the report authors acknowledge it is difficult, if not impossible, to compare the responses to the information provided by parents.

The survey included 1,714 responses and was conducted between August and September.

First, the view from the parents: About a third of the parents who have adult children with disabilities have a child with autism. A little more than 23 percent of the parents surveyed have children with intellectual disabilities, and 17 percent have children with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

Responses from these parents were compared to responses from parents of adult children without disabilities. And, in comparison, the parents dealing with disabilities had fewer children employed full time (11 percent compared to 48 percent), less belief that their children could handle their own finances (34 percent compared to 82 percent) and less belief that their children had a quality of life that could be considered excellent or good (61 percent compared to 82 percent.)

The responses were similar for other questions, though interestingly, younger parents were more likely to say their children had a good or excellent quality of life compared to older parents. (Seventy-nine percent of parents aged 35 to 44 offered that positive assessment, compared to 58 percent of parents over 55 years old.)

Now, the adults with disabilities: first, the nearly 400 adults with disabilities surveyed tended to be over age 45, just like the parents surveyed. That means that while the parents were talking about their 25-to-27 year old children, the adults with disabilities were 20 years older than that.

The adults with disabilities who were surveyed were also remarkably highly educated. Forty-three percent had graduate degrees, and 22 percent had graduated from college. That’s quite different from the population of people with disabilities at large: 28 percent have graduated from high school, 5 percent from college and 1 percent have participated in some graduate work.

And finally, these adults with disabilities had different disabilities compared to the adult children whose parents were surveyed. Nineteen percent had an injury due to an accident, 11 percent had psychiatric disabilities and 10 percent had cerebral palsy.

So, very different groups here. Fifty-nine percent of these adults with disabilities said their quality of life was good, 82 percent live independently, and 85 percent always attended mainstreamed classes in school.

I look at these results almost as two separate surveys; there are just too many differences in the groups to compare.

But it does make me want to see a survey that captures the feelings of adults with disabilities. The federally-funded National Longitudinal Transition Study has written reports that compile the views of youths on the cusp of adulthood, one of which can be found here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.