Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Wehman, P., Lau, S., Molinelli, A., Brooke, V., Thompson, K., Moore, C., & West, M. (2012). Supported employment for young adults with autism spectrum disorder: Preliminary data. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 37 (3), 160-169.
Title:  Supported employment for young adults with autism spectrum disorder: Preliminary data
Authors:  Wehman, P., Lau, S., Molinelli, A., Brooke, V., Thompson, K., Moore, C., & West, M.
Year:  2012
Journal/Publication:  Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
Publisher:  TASH
DOI:  https://doi.org/10.2511/027494812804153606
Full text:  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2511/027494812804153606    |   PDF   
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  No

Structured abstract:

Background:  Individuals with ASD who achieve employment, follow-up studies suggest that long-term employment outcomes are poor for the majority of this group. Specific research related to Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism along the spectrum, reveals that these individuals are less likely to be employed than individuals with language disorders or learning disabilities (Cameto, Levine, & Wagner, 2004). Supported employment is one approach that has utility in helping to place and retain individuals with ASD in competitive employment (Targett & Wehman, 2009). Although research in a supported employment approach for individuals with autism is limited, there has been extensive research on using the individualized approach to providing support to assist individuals with the most significant disabilities with gaining and maintaining employment. Therefore, it would seem a logical next step is to conduct research to determine whether or not the same or similar strategies may be beneficial to individuals with ASD.
Purpose:  To examine the effects of supported employment in securing and maintaining competitive employment for people with autism spectrum disorder, a group that has typically been found to be underemployed or unemployed.
Setting:  The state department of vocational rehabilitation services
Study sample:  Participants were 33 individuals witb ASD who were consecutively referred for competitive employment services by vocational rehabilitation counselors. Individuals were not prescreened for behavioral or social skills, employment potential, or other factors.
Intervention:  A supported employment model, working one-on-one with an employment specialist. The data were collected by employment specialists at a Commission in Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)-accredited supported employment program at a major university. All clients were referred from local rehabilitation counselors. The service delivery model utilized was exclusively focused on supporting persons with significant disabilities in securing and maintaining competitive employment using a supported employment customized approach. Of the three employment specialists, two had experience with applied behavioral analysis, and all three had 1-3 years of experience working in the field of supported employment. Employment specialists engaged in situational assessment, job discovery and job development, customizing jobs, on-site training, positive behavioral supports, and job retention techniques. The employment specialists were responsible for tracking the actual time spent either directly with or working for the job seeker with a disability. The tracking of intervention hours is an important tool for both programmatic and fiscal reasons. In addition to participating in a supported employment online competency-based certificate training program, new employment specialist also took part in a 2-week orientation training where they were assigned to an experienced lead employment specialist and gained expertise on how to properly record time in each intervention category. All time submitted by employment specialist was checked for reliability.
Control or comparison condition:  No
Data collection and analysis:  The data were collected by employment specialists at a Commission in Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)-accredited supported employment program at a major university. All clients were referred from local rehabilitation counselors. The service delivery model utilized was exclusively focused on supporting persons with significant disabilities in securing and maintaining competitive employment using a supported employment customized approach. All client data presented were stored on a secure server using a database built using ColdFusion MX. The database consists of interactive and dynamic Web pages that allow employment specialists to enter data from their laptops in remote locations. This system was password protected to ensure limited access. These data were continually updated and reviewed for accuracy. Intervention time and participant outcomes were aggregated across the group of participants and over time.
Findings:  Of the 33 individuals included in the study, 27 successfully obtained competitive employment, with a total of 29 positions secured. The successful results were achieved through the use of a supported employment model and skilled employment specialists who were able to provide a high level of social supports and compensatory training strategies for skill acquisition. Specifically, employment specialists supported individuals through four steps of an individualized supported employment model: (a) the development of a jobseeker profile and assessment, (b) guiding the job development and career search, (c) conducting job site training, and (d) designing long-term supports to promote job retention. The multitude and variance of specific methods and strategies used in each case to execute these key steps of the supported employment model accurately refiect an emphasis on a highly individualized approach. Although the outcomes of this preliminary study were positive in terms of employment outcomes, further research remains to be conducted.
Conclusions:  A supported employment approach for individuals with autism proved effective for the individuals in this study. More research documenting the specific services and supports required by individuals with ASD will help to ultimately increase the number of people with ASD obtaining employment and community independence. Additional research is required to demonstrate the effectiveness of a supported employment model on job seekers with ASD who possess higher levels of education and skills. Furthermore, research models spanning a multitude of jobseekers and employment specialists require consistent data collection methods to ensure validity of results. The employment specialists in this research project recommend additional longitudinal monitoring of jobseekers with ASD to gauge career development, advancement, and job retention. In addition, widening the ASD population cohort would increase the variety of participant demographics, skills, and level of education.

Disabilities served:  Autism / ASD
Populations served:  Other
Interventions:  Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model of supported employment
Job coach
Training
Vocational rehabilitation
Outcomes:  Employment acquisition
Increase in hours worked
Wages
Increase in number of months of employment