Factors Underpinning the Successful Employment of Adults with Autism

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
J. Dreaver1,2, S. J. Girdler2,3, C. Thompson4,5, S. Bolte5,6,7, M. H. Black2,3 and M. Falkmer1,8, (1)School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia, (2)Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), Long Pocket, Brisbane, Australia, (3)School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia, (4)School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Perth, Australia, (5)Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), Brisbane, Australia, (6)Center for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (KIND), Center for Psychiatry Research, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, (7)Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center for Psychiatry Research, Stockholm County Council, Sweden, (8)Curtin University, Bentley, Australia

While obtaining successful employment is a primary ambition for young adults as they transition to the post-secondary years, this aspiration too often remains unrealized for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Given its bio-psycho-social approach the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) has particular utility in conceptualising the employment of people with ASD. The ICF supports a holistic view of the individual and consideration of the role of contextual factors relevant to employment and the abilities and strengths of individuals with ASD in the workplace.


This study explored factors facilitating the successful employment of individuals with ASD across Australia and Sweden, examining these in reference to the ICF.


Twenty semi-structured interviews, guided by the ICF, were conducted with company directors and line managers with in-depth knowledge of at least one case of successful employment of a person with ASD from Australia and Sweden. ‘Successful employment’ was defined as an individual with ASD maintaining competitive employment for six months or more. Thematic analysis extracted meaningful concepts which were collapsed into common themes relating to factors associated with successful employment. Strategies and supports underpinning employment success were also identified. Meaningful concepts were subsequently linked to the relevant ICF core-sets for ASD domains and codes.


While the experiences of company directors and line managers in Australia and Sweden were subtly different, three interrelated and overarching themes emerged including ‘Knowledge and Understanding of ASD’, ‘Work Environment’ and ‘Job Match’. This research also identified, across countries, those social, adaptive, cognitive, employment and vocational supports and strategies that facilitated successful employment outcomes for people with ASD. Secondary data analysis linked 1083 unique meaningful concepts to the ICF. The most frequently linked category in the Environment was e430 Individual attitudes of people in positions of authority, followed by e330 People in positions of authority and e325 Acquaintances, peers, colleagues, neighbours and community members. The most frequently discussed categories in Activity and Participation were d740 Formal relationships, followed by d570 Looking after one’s health. Only one of the eight chapters of the Body functions component were discussed by participants with these linking to Mental functions. The most prevalent categories within this chapter included b156 Perceptual functions, b122 Global psychosocial functions, b126 Temperament and personality functions, b167 Mental functions of language, b130 Energy and drive functions, b140 Attention functions, b164 Higher level cognitive functions and b160 Thought functions.


Findings from this study revealed that knowledge and understanding of ASD underpinned employers’ ability to make appropriate workplace modifications and match individuals to jobs. Linking of meaningful concepts to the ICF highlighted the importance of environmental factors, including support and relationships and attitudes in the workplace, in underpinning positive employment outcomes. This research provides practical strategies and supports which facilitate the successful employment of people with ASD, providing a basis for the development of future interventions and models of service delivery.