Building Employers’ Capacity to Support Vocational Opportunities for Adults with ASD: A Synthesis Review of Practices, Strategies and Perceptions

Thursday, May 11, 2017: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
M. Rashid1, S. Hodgetts2 and D. B. Nicholas3, (1)University of Alberta/University of Calgary, Edmonton, AB, Canada, (2)University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, (3)University of Calgary, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Background:  There is a significant body of literature on the value of supported employment and its significance for employers, and perceived potential challenges in employing individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Despite examples of successful and supportive interventions and vocational experiences for adults with ASD, substantial gaps remain. For example, the existing literature has largely focused on employment preparation and attainment, but has neglected job maintenance, and strategies to support employers’ capacity development (Nicholas, Attridge, Zwaigenbaum & Clarke, 2014). The role and practices of employers seem central to job access and retention for people with ASD. To our knowledge, there has been no knowledge synthesis related to building employer capacity; however, such information has the potential to advance the field by identifying both existing capacity and knowledge gaps in this area.

Objectives:  The purpose of this synthesis review was to identify studies focusing on services and supports that foster employers’ capacity to support employment for adults with ASD.

Methods:  A literature search was conducted with the assistance of a research librarian to identify studies addressing services and supports reported to build employer capacity to support vocational opportunities for adults with ASD. The search was conducted in EBSCO UAlberta Library search, which automatically includes more than 50 electronic bibliographic databases. Some of the major databases include are: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHLplus, PsycINFO, Family Studies Abstracts, Web of Science, Scopus, Academic OneFile, Canadian Points of View Reference Centre, Business Source Complete, Canadian Reference Centre, SocINDEX. Key terms such as (employer* or company or companies or organization* or supervisor*) AND (hire or hiring or employ* or "vocational opportunit*") AND (autis* or ASD) were used. Two reviewers independently screened for inclusion, extracted data, and assessed study quality. Inclusion criteria were: (1) peer-reviewed literature, (2) English-language, (3) individuals with DD, and (4) employers and colleagues’ perspectives.

Results: Fourteen studies met inclusion criteria and were included in the review. This synthesis review reveals several key findings. Involvement of support workers was conveyed as a core strategy for building employer capacity to support employees with ASD. In addition, disability awareness training, education, and acknowledgment of the benefits associated with of employing individuals with ASD were identified as supports. Employer concerns about required accommodation for employees with ASD were also identified. Collectively, these findings highlighted evidence gaps and future research directions in the field of building employer capacity to ultimately improve vocational outcomes for individuals with ASD.

Conclusions: There is a significant body of literature on the value of supported employment and its significance for employers, as well as a few studies addressing perceived challenges associated with employing individuals with ASD. Findings from this synthesis review notably indicate a lack of research focused on understanding employer’s perspectives of what is vital to develop their capacity to support vocational opportunities for adults with ASD.