Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) represents a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by varying degrees of difficulty in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors and more. There is no one type of autism, no single identified cause, and no known cure. Autism occurs across all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and is a lifelong condition.

Across the world, research indicates there may be as many as 150 million people with autism. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1.7% of the population, or more than 5 million Americans, are living with autism, with 1 in 59 American children identified as on the spectrum. Current incidence in boys, who are 4 times more likely to be identified with ASD than girls, is 1 in 37.

Every individual with ASD is unique in his or her abilities and challenges. Whereas much focus to date has been on the challenges and deficits that individuals face with autism in the neurotypical world, we know that a great many of these individuals excel well beyond the average population in intellectual abilities, and visual, music, math, art and academic skills. Yet, despite heightened abilities in these and other areas, most young adults with autism are experiencing particular difficulty during transition to adulthood, and are struggling to acquire and maintain even minor successes in higher education, employment and living independently.

While it is critical to understand causation and the difficulties presented by autism, it is imperative that we turn equal focus to effectively developing the natural abilities of individuals with autism while providing skill development and meaningful ways to overcome obstacles.

SLLEA was created to fill an urgent need to provide effective opportunity, skills training, supports and technology that will allow young men and women with higher functioning autism to transition fully into adulthood with confidence and success.


  • 1 in 59 children and 1 in 37 boys have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the United States.

  • ASD is 4 times more common among boys than girls.

  • Autism occurs across all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

  • Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders, afflicting as many as 150 million people worldwide.

  • Every year in the U.S., approximately 50,000 teens with ASD transition to adulthood, many without access to autism specific services.

Financial Cost

  • Autism services in the U.S. are estimated to cost $236-262 billion per year with the majority, $175-196 billion, in adult services.  

  • Having a child with autism costs a family on average $60,000 a year, and between $1.4 to $2.4 million over a lifespan.

Education and Employment

  • Almost half of all individuals with autism have average to above-average intellectual ability.

  • As many as 90% of adults with autism are underemployed or unemployed.

  • 35% of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or received postgraduate education after leaving high school.


  • There is much less known about autism in adulthood compared to our understanding of autism in children.

  • Most individuals with ASD will need some level of support and services throughout their lifetime.