Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Mary J Baker-Ericzén, Meghan A Fitch, Mikaela Kinnear, Melissa M Jenkins, Elizabeth W Twamley, Linda Smith, Gabriel Montano, Joshua Feder, Pamela J Crooke, Michelle G Winner and Juan Leon (2018). Development of the Supported Employment, Comprehensive Cognitive Enhancement, and Social Skills program for adults on the autism spectrum: Results of initial study. Autism, 22 (1), 6-19.
Title:  Development of the Supported Employment, Comprehensive Cognitive Enhancement, and Social Skills program for adults on the autism spectrum: Results of initial study
Authors:  Mary J Baker-Ericzén, Meghan A Fitch, Mikaela Kinnear, Melissa M Jenkins, Elizabeth W Twamley, Linda Smith, Gabriel Montano, Joshua Feder, Pamela J Crooke, Michelle G Winner and Juan Leon
Year:  2018
Journal/Publication:  Autism
Publisher:  Sage Publications
DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613177242
Full text: 
Peer-reviewed?  No
NIDILRR-funded?  Not reported

Structured abstract:

Background:  The large and increasing population of adults on the autism spectrum face challenges in participation in the workforce. Studies of these individuals reveal the complexity of the problem and the need for effective and directed treatments to support this population. In particular, the need for functional support as these individuals enter the workforce is clear from the literature and research on this topic. One critical issue related to employment and employment support is addressing cognitive executive functioning and social skill deficits that are found in the AS population. In particular, social skills, sometimes referred to as “soft skills” are important factors in determining employment success. These skills, such as the ability to infer the thoughts of others, read social cues, and how to respond in social situations, are skills that support employees in work settings. This pilot study approaches the question of social skills in the workplace through a supported employment model of intervention. The Supported Employment, Comprehensive Cognition Enhancement, and Social Skills (SUCCESS) program was developed over six months as a means of addressing these social skills and encouraging participants, through homework, group meetings, and individual counseling sessions, to develop these soft skills necessary for employment and employment retention.
Purpose:  To implement the SUCCESS program in a small, sample group and assess the outcomes.
Study sample:  Included nine young adults between 18 and 29 years of age. 78% were males, 75% Caucasian, and all were high school graduates. Some of the group received disability services and/or rehabilitation services (22%), and 75% met the criteria for impairment on the SRS-2 scale. Finally, none received SSI benefits.
Intervention:  The SUCCESS program addressed neurocognitive skills specific to executive functioning and then moved on to social cognitions and social skills. Over a 6-month period, the SUCCESS program required 25 sessions or 1.5 hour sessions per week. Each session with the participants included review of assignments, teaching social skill strategies, experiential learning, discussion, and practice assignments among other activities. Participants completed workbooks developed for the program and in meetings the facilitators provided curriculum in an individualized way to enhance engagement with the material.
Data collection and analysis:  Data from meetings and workbooks were collected at baseline and post-intervention by both adult participants and from the primary caregiver for each individual. Further, data analysis was done using a variety of measures including Delis-Kaplan Exeutive Functioning System (D-KEFS), Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Adult (BRIEF-A), Social and Cognitive Communication Skills (SRS-2), Social Skills Performance Assessment (SSPA), Functional Daily Living Questionnaire, and Employment Interview developed for this study. Finally Satisfaction Questionnaires were used at the end of the study.
Findings:  The study was a pilot study of the SUCCESS intervention. The curriculum was integrated into existing counseling and therapy models over the course of the 6-moth implementation. Adherence to the study was high as measured by group attendance levels (63%) at all 25 sessions. Homework assignments were completed at a high rate as well (88%). The Satisfaction Survey showed scores of 8.13 out of 10 for all participants. Data analysis revealed improvement in executive functioning and social skills. Anecdotal evidence confirmed that caregivers found participants performing daily life skills on a regular basis including increased hygiene. Employment increased in number of hours worked or in employment retention. Five of the nine participants gained employment with a mean of 20.2 hours per week of work.
Conclusions:  SUCCESS increased vocational soft skills. Attendance and participation in SUCCESS was high with high rates of satisfaction reported. Researchers found that participants improved across all measurements assessed. The small sample size is cause for caution and it is possible that a longer-term program will yield more sustainable skill development. The SUCCESS program does integrate well with existing community-supported employment programs as the strong positive outcomes of participants attest. One area in need of more research is the lack of awareness of executive functioning skills in this population. Lack of awareness of these skills was communicated by both caregivers and participants.

Disabilities served:  Autism / ASD
Populations served:  Transition-age youth (14 - 24)
Interventions:  Career counseling
On-the-job training and support
Rehabilitation counseling
Supported employment
Vocational rehabilitation
Outcomes:  Employment acquisition
Increase in hours worked
Other