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Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models
for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Direct Professionals Support Print E-mail

Information for Direct Support Professionals

An 8-Year Follow-Up of a Specialist Supported Employment Service for High-Ability Adults With Autism or Asperger Syndrome

Few supported employment programs have been specifically designed for people with autism, especially those who are more able. This study examines the outcome of a supported employment service (NAS Prospects) for adults with autism or Asperger syndrome (IQ 60+) over an 8-year period. Approximately 68% of clients found employment. Of the 192 jobs, the majority were permanent contracts and most involved administrative, technical, or computing work. Assessment of current clients indicates that IQ, language skills, and educational attainments are high. However, work has also been found for those of lower abilities. Individuals supported by NAS Prospects show a rise in salaries, contribute more taxes, and claim fewer benefits. Satisfaction with the scheme is high among clients, employers, and support workers. Although the program continues to incur a financial deficit, the amount of this deficit has decreased. Moreover, there are many nonfinancial benefits, which are difficult to quantify. The importance of specialist employment support of this kind is discussed.

Authors: Howlin, Patricia; Alcock, Jennifer; Burkin, Catherine

Year: 2005

Source: Autism: The International Journal of Research & Practice, Volume 9, Number 5, pages 533–549


The Apple iPod Touch as a vocational support aid for adults with autism: Three case studies

Personal digital assistants (PDAs) offer task management and organizational features that may be utilized to help people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) function more successfully in the workplace. Additionally, onboard video cameras and addon software applications provide rich opportunities for the implementation of personalized vocational supports for individual workers. This article reports on three cases of workers with ASD who have been trained to use Apple iPod Touch PDAs as vocational supports in the workplace, resulting in improved functional performance and reduced behavioral challenges.

Authors: Tony Gentry, Stephanie Lau, Alissa Molinelli, Amy Fallen, and Richard Kriner

Year: 2012



Autism and the Transition to Adulthood: Success beyond the classroom

Autism diagnoses in young children increased dramatically in the 1990s—and now those children are young adults on the verge of a challenging transition to the real world. Every school and program will be ready to help with this groundbreaking practical guide, straight from the author of the acclaimed bestseller Life Beyond the Classroom and two community-based autism experts. Professionals who work with young adults will get hard-to-find information on how specific social, behavioral, and cognitive characteristics of people with autism affect the transition to adulthood, exploring potential challenges and traits that can be powerful assets.

Authors: : Wehman, P., Datlow-Smith, M., & Schall, C.

Year: 2009



Competitive Employment for People With Autism: Correlates of Successful Closure in Competitive and Supported Employment

Differences in rates of case closure, case service cost, hours worked per week, and weekly wage between customers with autism closed successfully in competitive employment and supported employment were found using the Rehabilitation Service Administration national database of 2001. Using logistic regression, customer demographic variables related to successful competitive employment included age, years of education, and presence of a secondary disability. Case service variables related to successful competitive employment included job finding, job placement, and maintenance. Of customer demographic variables related to successful supported employment, white customers were more likely to be closed successfully. Job placement was the case service variable related to successful supported employment. Implications for rehabilitation professionals and for future research on vocational rehabilitation outcomes with customers with autism are provided.

Authors: Schaller, James; Yang, Nancy K.

Year: 2005

Source: Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, Volume 49, Number 1, pages 4-13


Employment and Adults With Asperger Syndrome

Six adults with Asperger syndrome were interviewed about their experiences regarding employment. Methods included conducting initial and follow-up interviews, either in person, on the phone, or via e-mail. Repeatedly, difficulties and problems interfering with employment success emerged. All of the adults who were interviewed had difficulty finding work that was commensurate with their ability levels and had difficulty maintaining jobs. Recommendations for parents and professionals working with adults with autism spectrum disorders are provided.

Authors: Hurlbutt, Karen; Chalmers, Lynne

Year: 2004

Source: Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, Volume 19, Number 4, pages 215–222


Employment and Post-Secondary Educational Activities for Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders During the Transition to Adulthood

This report describes the post-high school educational and occupational activities for 66 young adults with autism spectrum disorders who had recently exited the secondary school system. Analyses indicated low rates of employment in the community, with the majority of young adults (56%) spending time in sheltered workshops or day activity centers. Young adults with ASD without an intellectual disability were three times more likely to have no daytime activities compared to adults with ASD who had an intellectual disability. Differences in behavioral functioning were observed by employment/day activity group. Our findings suggest that the current service system may be inadequate to accommodate the needs of youths with ASD who do not have intellectual disabilities during the transition to adulthood.

Author: Taylor J. L. Seltzer M. M.

Year: 2011

Source: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2011, Vol. 41(5), pp. 566-575


Enhancing Job-Site Training of Supported Workers with Autism: A reemphasis on simulation

Currently recommended practice in supported work emphasizes training job skills to workers with severe disabilities while on the job. Early behavioral research indicated that skills needed in natural environments could also be trained in simulated settings. We compared job-site plus simulation training for teaching job skills to supported workers with autism to provision of training exclusively on the job. Job-site training occurred in a small publishing company during the regular work routine, and simulation training occurred in an adult education site for people with severe disabilities. Two pairs of workers received training on two job skills; one skill was trained at the job site and the other was trained using job-site plus simulation training. Results indicated that for 3 of the 4 comparisons, job-site plus simulation training resulted in a higher level of skill or more rapid skill acquisition than did job-site-only training. Results suggested that job-site training, the assumed best practice for teaching vocational skills, is likely to be more effective if supplemented with simulation training. Directions for future research include expanding applications of behavioral technologies to other aspects of the current support paradigm.

Authors: : Lattimore, L. P., Parsons, M.B., & Reid, D.H.

Year: 2004

Source: Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, 39 (1), pp. 91-102.


Institute for Community Inclusion: Supporting Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Quality Employment Practices

This publication describes Autism Spectrum Disorders and offers strategies for supporting employment and workplace accommodations. The article is intended for direct support professionals.



Meeting the Vocational Support Needs of Individuals With Asperger Syndrome and Other Autism Spectrum Disabilities

The purpose of this pilot study was to seek consumer perspectives on strategies for improving vocational placement and job retention services for individuals with Asperger Syndrome and other autism spectrum disabilities (ASD). For this purpose, 18 adults with ASD were individually interviewed about their experiences within the workplace. Participants were asked to (a) describe positive and negative aspects of their vocational experiences, (b) identify major obstacles to successful employment, and (c) recommend appropriate vocational supports to be provided by vocational rehabilitation counselors, employers, and coworkers. Qualitative analyses of the interview transcripts revealed a number of common experiences and concerns, which suggest the needs of individuals with ASD should be recognized as different from others with more generalized developmental disabilities and/or mental retardation.

Authors: Müller, Eve; Schuler, Adriana; Burton, Barbara A.; Yates, Gregory B.

Year: 2003

Source: Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, Volume 18, Number 3, pages 163–175


Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI)

Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) serves families, educators, and professionals working with students with autism and low-incidence disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairments, other health impairments, and traumatic brain injuries.

OCALI has created several tools related to Autism and transition, including a downloadable set of Autism Transition to Adulthood Guidelines and 16 web casts that focus on adult issues.



Prevalence of Youth with Autism Who Received Vocational Rehabilitation Services

To better understand how the increasing population of people with autism may impact adult programs, we examined the number of youth with autism served by state vocational rehabilitation programs in 2010. To account for the states’ general population sizes, we reported the number of youth with autism served per 100,000 in the state general population (prevalence).

Authors: Migliore, Alberto and Zalewska, Agnieszka

Year: 2012



Rehabilitation of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Institute on Rehabilitation Issues Monograph No. 32

This monograph outlines the state of the science on ASD; identifies issues and conditions for effective transition from school to work, training, or postsecondary education; and describes evidence-based strategies for effective job development, placement, and retention.



Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Participation Among College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Little research has examined the popular belief that individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely than the general population to gravitate toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, a nationally representative sample of students with an ASD in special education. Findings suggest that students with an ASD had the highest STEM participation rates although their college enrollment rate was the third lowest among 11 disability categories and students in the general population. Disproportionate postsecondary enrollment and STEM participation by gender, family income, and mental functioning skills were found for young adults with an ASD. Educational policy implications are discussed.

Authors: Xin Wei, Jennifer W. Yu, Paul Shattuck, Mary McCracken, and Jose Blackorby

Year: 2012



Supported Employment Improves Cognitive Performance in Adults With Autism

The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a supported employment program on measures of executive functions for 44 adults with autism, assessed at the beginning and the end of the program period. The average length of time of the community employment was 30 months. Based on their predominant work activity over the study period, participants were classified into two groups: supported employment and unemployed. At the start of the program, the groups did not differ on any of the cognitive measures. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) demonstrated that by the end of the program, the supported employment group showed higher scores for executive functions on variables of CANTAB (Spatial Span Task-span length recalled; Spatial Working Memory Task-strategy; Planning Task "Stockings of Cambridge"-problems solved in minimum moves; Planning Task "Stockings of Cambridge"- mean planning time) and other tasks such as Trail Making Test-part B, time; Matching Familiar Figures (first answer and errors). In contrast, the unemployed group showed no change over time in their cognitive performance. Results of this study suggested that vocational rehabilitation programs have a beneficial impact upon cognitive performance in people with autism.

Authors: Garca-Villamisar, D; Hughes, C.

Year: 2007

Source: Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, Volume 51, Number 2, pages 142–150


Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Career Links

VCU ASD Career Links is one of many grants housed at the VCU RRTC (Rehabilitation Research and Training Center). The purpose of the project is to conduct evidence-based research on vocational rehabilitation (VR) service models for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). VCU ASD Career Links is a collaborative initiative between VCU and the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS).



Vocational Rehabilitation Interagency Activity Improving Supported Employment for People with Severe Disabilities

The first of three studies on interagency activity among state agencies delivering or funding employment services. The study focuses on identifying exemplary models and strategies used in interagency agreements to improve delivery of supported employment services. Interagency agreements were most frequent with state agencies that specialized in or had substantial involvement with disability services.

Authors: Foley, Susan M.; Butterworth, John; Heller, Amy

Year: 2000

Source: Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, Volume 15, Number 1, pages 37-42

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