Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Gentry, T., Kriner, R., Sima, A., McDonough, J., Wehman, P. (2014). Reducing the need for personal supports among workers with autism using an iPod touch as an assistive Technology: Delayed randomized control trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45 669-684.
Title:  Reducing the need for personal supports among workers with autism using an iPod touch as an assistive Technology: Delayed randomized control trial
Authors:  Gentry, T., Kriner, R., Sima, A., McDonough, J., Wehman, P.
Year:  2014
Journal/Publication:  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Publisher:  Springer Science+Business Media New York
Full text:  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-014-2221-8    |   PDF   
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  Yes

Structured abstract:

Background:  Adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face daunting challenges in the American workplace. Recent studies have found competitive employment rates from 4.1 to 11.8 % among working age individuals with ASD (Taylor and Seltzer 2011; McDonough and Revell 2010) and rates of any sort of post-secondary employment at 55 % among this population, lower than the rates for people with intellectual or learning disabilities (Shattuck et al. 2012). Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are versatile task organizers that hold promise as assistive technologies for people with cognitive-behavioral challenges.
Purpose:  This delayed randomized controlled trial compared two groups of adult workers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to determine whether the use of an Apple iPod Touch PDA as a vocational support improves work performance and reduces personal support needs on the job.
Setting:  Participants all worked in competitive employment settings Most jobs were service-oriented, including custodians, stockers, grocery baggers, car wash attendants, and food service workers; a few participants held clerical positions
Study sample:  Sample size of 50 adults with autism spectrum disorder with a male: female ratio of 42:8, ranging in age from 18 to 60, though most were in their twenties; the average age for all participants was 24. 30 participants were Caucasian, 15 were African American, 3 were Hispanic and 2 were of Asian descent.
Intervention:  Baseline data were collected on 50 adults with ASD who were beginning a vocational placement supported by a job coach. Participants were randomized to receive training in the use of a PDA as a vocational aid upon starting their job or after working 12 weeks without PDA support.
Control or comparison condition:  Volunteers were randomized to one of two treatment groups; those randomized to the ‘‘Now’’ group received the intervention upon starting their job placement while participants in the ‘‘Delayed’’ group received the intervention 12 weeks after beginning their job placement.
Data collection and analysis:  Baseline data were collected on 50 adults with ASD who were beginning a vocational placement supported by a job coach. The mean and standard deviations (SD) or frequency and percentage for each demographic variable were summarized as recorded at study enrollment. The mean and standard deviations (SD) or frequency and percentage for each demographic variable were summarized as recorded at study enrollment. This was performed for the entire sample and separately for the two intervention groups. Two-sample t tests and Pearson Chi square tests were performed between the treatment groups to examine whether the two groups were demographically comparable at baseline.
Findings:  Workers who received PDA training at the beginning of their job placement required significantly less hours of job coaching support (p = 0.013) during their first 12 weeks on the job than those who had not yet received the intervention. Functional performance between the two groups was not significantly different. The significant difference in hours of job coaching support persisted during the subsequent 12 weeks, in which both groups used a PDA (p = 0.017).
Conclusions:  Training in the use of a PDA as an assistive technology significantly reduces the need for job coaching support by workers with ASD, without reducing functional performance on the job. So while training in the use of a PDA reduced job coaching needs at either time point, starting sooner was more effective. The reduction in job coaching hours shown in this study was large enough to offset the cost of the AT intervention, representing a cost-saving for the state vocational rehabilitation agency.

Disabilities served:  Autism / ASD
Interventions:  Assistive technology
Outcomes:  Other