Seeking and Maintaining Employment Among Adults with ASD: Clinician, Family and Employer Views in Australia, Sweden and the USA

Oral Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 11:20 AM
Willem Burger Hal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
S. Bolte1, S. Mahdi2,3, C. M. Esposito4, M. Falkmer5, M. H. Black6, M. D. Lerner7, S. J. Girdler6 and A. Halladay8, (1)Center for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (KIND), Center for Psychiatry Research, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, (2)Karolinska Institutet Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (KIND), Karolinska Institute Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Stockholm, Sweden, (3)Center for Psychiatry Research, Stockholm, Sweden, (4)Stony Brook University, Staten Island, NY, (5)Curtin University, Bentley, Australia, (6)School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia, (7)Psychology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, (8)Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ
Background: Employment rates for adults with disabilities are low, including those for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Research on facilitators and barriers for seeking and maintaining jobs is limited in ASD, particularly from a multi-informant and cross-cultural perspective.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to collect views on factors potentially promoting or hampering access to jobs and long-term employment in the eyes of family members, clinicians, care providers, researchers and employers across Australia, Sweden and the USA.

Methods: Based on previous research a standardized online survey was developed, translated and further adapted to each country’s setting based on national clinical and practical experience, and requirements. The survey contained three parts: informed consent, socio-demographic background information and 65 to 70 Likert-scaled items of seeking and maintaining employment, taking about 25 minutes to complete. As of October 2017, a total of 134 family members, 73 professionals (clinicians, service providers and researchers) and 6 employers had completed the survey, 113 from the USA, 53 from Australia and 47 from Sweden.

Results: Across countries and informants there was more convergence than divergence regarding views on facilitators and barriers of findings and maintaining employment. Especially, there was a robust consensus on the relevance of matching skills and job demands in ASD, as well as the decisive role of one responsible manager at the workplace being approachable to assist in avoiding and solving conflicts. Informants also agreed of the necessity to destigmatize ASD, to stress ASD-related strengths, and whenever possible to adapt the workplace environment to need and skills of individuals with ASD.

Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate a broad consensus across stakeholders in high income countries concerning factors promoting and hampering employment of adults with ASD. The survey results provide many options to derive recommendations for private and public employers, policy makers, interest organizations, and individuals on the spectrum to achieve higher employment rates in autism.