Building Employer Capacity to Support Meaningful Vocation for People with ASD: A Grounded Theory Study of Multi-Stakeholder Perspectives

Thursday, May 11, 2017: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
M. Rashid1, S. Hodgetts2, D. B. Nicholas3, B. M. Di Rezze4, J. A. Roberts5, W. Nagib6 and J. Leo7, (1)University of Alberta/University of Calgary, Edmonton, AB, Canada, (2)University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, (3)University of Calgary, Edmonton, AB, Canada, (4)McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, CANADA, (5)Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, (6)McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada, (7)Abilities Centre, Whitby, ON, Canada
Background: Little is known about best practices for helping employers support individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in attaining and retaining meaningful employment. An understanding and evaluation of specific employment and employer practices that foster employment success (i.e., job access, retention and advancement), and conversely existing gaps that require further development, is needed. As such, there is an urgent need for an evidence-informed theoretical base upon which salient variables (processes and outcomes) can be identified and examined for further evaluation within observational, interventional and longitudinal studies. This field is largely impeded until such a theoretical base is developed, and salient components of employer need to support meaningful employment for individuals with ASD are available.

Objectives: This research systematically explored strategies for building employer capacity to support meaningful employment opportunity for individuals with ASD.

Methods: Given the need for theoretical understanding to inform and advance vocational opportunity for individuals with ASD, a grounded theory design was used. Grounded theory is well established for the investigation of complex, multi-faceted human experiential phenomena, offering a theoretically rich understanding of processes and perceived outcomes. Purposeful and theoretical sampling was used to recruit participants across two Canadian provinces, Ontario and Alberta. Data collection to date has involved individual and group interviews with adults with ASD (N=25), their caregivers (N=12), employment supports (N=32), and employers (N=5). Recruitment, data collection and analysis is ongoing until data saturation is reached. We anticipate closing recruitment by the end of 2016. In line with grounded theory methods, data analysis is an iterative process. Therefore, verbatim (identifiers removed) transcripts and associated field notes are subjected to qualitative data analysis as they are completed. Data management and analysis are supported by N-Vivo11 software.

Results: Preliminary data analysis reveals five emergent themes related to building employer capacity to support vocational development for adults with ASD: (1) Accommodation; (2) Education and understanding disability; (3) Employment supports as vital; (4) Equal treatment and provision of equal opportunity for people with ASD in the workforce; and (5) Perception of visible versus invisible disability in the workforce.

Conclusions: This research is novel is its focus on building employer, rather than employee, capacity to support meaningful employment for individuals with ASD. Identified gaps and potential solutions, from the perspectives of multiple stakeholder groups, will be discussed.