An International Survey on Barriers & Access to Employment: Perspectives of Adults with ASD

Oral Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 10:55 AM
Willem Burger Hal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
M. D. Lerner1, C. M. Esposito2, A. H. Gerber3, B. T. Milbourn4, M. H. Black4, S. Bolte5, S. Mahdi6, A. Halladay7 and S. J. Girdler4, (1)Psychology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, (2)Stony Brook University, Staten Island, NY, (3)Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, (4)School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia, (5)Center for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (KIND), Center for Psychiatry Research, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, (6)Karolinska Institutet Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (KIND), Karolinska Institute Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Stockholm, Sweden, (7)Autism Science Foundation, New York, NY
Background: Across the globe, adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are among the most underemployed populations (Carter et al. 2012). For instance, in the United States, 33% of adults with ASD are currently employed, while in Australia – where considerably more support services are available – that number remains only 42% (Standifer, 2011; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010; United Nations, 2007). A number of factors including stigma, lack of information and training, and insufficient supports have been identified by researchers as impacting the process of finding and keeping a job among those with ASD (Scott et al. 2015; Chen et al. 2015; Muller et al. 2003). However, little research has sought to understand the perspectives of individuals with ASD on the factors that influence their ability to obtain and maintain a job. Given the wide range of services, supports, and norms across countries, the establishment of common goals regarding employment require an international perspective.

Objectives: This study aimed to assess the self-reported factors contributing to employment among adults with ASD across three different countries: the United States, Australia, and Sweden.

Methods: Using items derived from a previous mixed-methods study designed to identify common factors regarding employment in ASD, a standardized survey instrument was deployed (and translated) in the three target countries. Fifty-one, 28, and 37 adults with ASD completed the survey online in the United States, Australia, and Sweden, respectively. An examination of distribution of responses was conducted. Data from additional participants will be included in the final presentation.

Results: There was international consensus that work experience and vocational training are important to helping individuals with ASD to obtain a job (>89% rating across countries). However, only 68% (stable across countries) of participants indicated that educating staff about ASD prior to the individual being hired was important to obtaining a job. 100% of participants across countries indicated that focusing on individuals’ strengths in the workplace was important for maintaining a job. However, only 50 – 75% of participants across countries indicated that increased or modified pay rates would be valuable for maintaining a job.

Conclusions: This survey – the first to ask individuals with ASD across nations their perspective on obtaining and maintaining employment – highlights key areas of international consensus regarding getting and keeping a job. Hands-on work experience was considered extremely important for obtaining a job, while educating staff at the new place of employment was considered less so. In terms of maintaining a job, every participant indicated that focusing on their strength was essential, while comparatively fewer wished for greater pay. These results highlight the unique goals and priorities of individuals with ASD as they enter – and try to remain – in the workplace around the world.