Job Satisfaction and Quality of Life in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Participating in the Dandelion Program

Thursday, May 11, 2017: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
D. Hedley1, M. Uljarevic2,3, M. Wilmot1, J. Spoor4, A. L. Richdale5 and C. Dissanayake6, (1)School of Psychology & Public Health, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, (2)Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, Melbourne, CA, (3)Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), Long Pocket, CA, (4)Department of Management & Marketing, La Trobe Business School, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, (5)Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, Bundoora, Australia, (6)Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
Background: Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) face disproportionately high rates of unemployment (Shattuck et al., 2012). Organizations can potentially improve employment rates in individuals with diverse needs by making reasonable adjustments and creating supportive environments in the workplace (Cavanagh et al., 2016; Yang & Konrad, 2011). When individuals are employed and experience job satisfaction this generally leads to positive outcomes, including improved quality of life (QoL). Job satisfaction predicts a range of positive outcomes including improved work performance, lower absenteeism, lower turnover, and higher overall life satisfaction (Judge & Klinger, 2008), but the research on job satisfaction among individuals with disabilities and/or ASD is sparse and has produced mixed results (Baumgartner et al., 2014).

Objectives: The present longitudinal study examined QoL and job satisfaction, as well as the relationship between these factors, in adults with ASD participating in the Dandelion Program. This program, an initiative of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Australia, is a three-year traineeship providing a pathway into employment for people with ASD, with additional workplace supports to accommodate their diverse needs. Individuals are placed in information technology positions within the Australian Federal Government.

Methods: Participants were 20 males with ASD aged 20 to 45 years (M = 25.15, SD =7.74 years) who were employed as software testers by HPE and placed at two federal government locations in Australia. Participants completed the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire, short-form (MSQ; Weiss, Dawis, England, & Lofquist, 1967), a widely reported job satisfaction questionnaire, and the World Health Organization Quality of Life-BREF (WHOQOL-BREF; WHO, 1996), at three time-points, corresponding to 6, 12, and 18 months of employment respectively. Data from co-workers were included for comparison purposes.

Results: General, intrinsic and extrinsic job satisfaction was higher than that of co-workers (p < .05), yet significantly decreased over time in participants with ASD. QoL of participants with ASD did not differ significantly from co-workers at the three time-points (p > .05), and remained stable over the 18-month period. We did not identify a significant association between job satisfaction and QoL (p >.05).

Conclusions: This study identified a relatively high but decreasing level of job satisfaction in adults with ASD employed as software testers in a supported employment program. This decrease was not reflected in a corresponding change in QoL, which remained stable over the same 18-month period. The lack of a significant relationship between quality of life and job satisfaction was unexpected – we predicted that satisfaction at work would be reflected in life satisfaction, as has been reported elsewhere in individuals with developmental disabilities (Noonan-Garcia, 2003). Similarly, we expected quality of life to improve over time, as has also been demonstrated previously in individuals employed in a supported work environment (García-Villamisar, Wehman, & Navarro, 2002), yet it did not. Further work is required to unpack the relationship between work and quality of life in working adults with ASD.