Worktopia: Perspectives of a Job Readiness Program for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Objectives: To illuminate aspects of the EWC and CWC programs that promote work readiness; to identify program outcomes including benefits and barriers to participants and families.
Methods: Utilizing a grounded theory approach, qualitative interviews were conducted with a sample of participants with ASD and parents from both EWC and CWC programs across Canada. Findings from the interviews will be presented.
Results: Participants highlight the importance of continuity in relationships between support persons (e.g. program facilitators) and individuals with ASD. Key qualities of support included workers who built relational ‘bridges’, used humour, demonstrated respect, had previous experience with ASD, and were approachable. Parents also highlighted the importance of ongoing relational ‘bridges’. Central teaching approaches embedded in adult learning principles such as structured learning, video modeling, and role play were found to enhance employment readiness. Challenges to program participation were transportation to the varied work sites and scheduling for persons with ASD in combination with their other life commitments (e.g. medical appointments). Successful outcomes included increased self-confidence, improved self-recognition, feeling part of the community and lowered fear of social interactions.
Conclusions: The experiences of participants and parents in the Worktopia employment program give direction for service providers and researches who are creating programs to enhance skills and increase work readiness for persons with ASD.