A Cross-Cultural Perspective of the Views of Stakeholders on the Employment of Individuals with ASD

Oral Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 11:45 AM
Willem Burger Hal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
S. J. Girdler1, M. Falkmer2, M. T. Scott3, M. D. Lerner4, C. M. Esposito5, A. H. Gerber6, B. T. Milbourn1, M. H. Black1, S. Mahdi7, A. Halladay8 and S. Bolte9, (1)School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia, (2)Curtin University, Bentley, Australia, (3)School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, Curtin University, Perth, Australia, (4)Psychology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, (5)Stony Brook University, Staten Island, NY, (6)Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, (7)Karolinska Institutet Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (KIND), Karolinska Institute Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Stockholm, Sweden, (8)Autism Science Foundation, New York, NY, (9)Center for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (KIND), Center for Psychiatry Research, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
Background: The right to employment for all is enshrined in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; however, for many people living with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) this right is yet to be realised. While there is a clear need to improve employment outcomes, developing appropriate services depends not only on systematic empirical measurement, but on an in-depth understanding of the perspectives of key stakeholders.

Objectives: This study aimed to elicit an in-depth understanding of the perspectives of stakeholders, including adults with ASD, their families, clinicians and service providers and employers, on the processes associated with employment across Australia, Sweden and the United States.

Methods: Focus groups and interviews were held across countries, guided by questions reflecting the process of employment from job preparation through to maintaining a job, the contribution of people with ASD to the workplace, and the meaning of employment for people with ASD. As of October 2017 three community forums have been held in Australia, in partnership with the Autism Association of Western Australia, including 24 people with ASD and family advocates, and 14 Service providers. Additional findings from the perspective of employers and Sweden and the United States will be included in the final presentation.

Results: Across forums discussions in relation to preparing for employment focused on job-match, social communication, preparing for interviews and building independence in other major life areas. Considerations of gaining and maintaining employment were employer and co-worker’s knowledge of ASD, support from mentors, the social demands of the workplace, and understanding of job requirements. People with ASD were described as having attributes of value in the workplace including focus, loyalty, honesty, reliability, directness, creativity and impartiality. The meaning of employment for people with ASD included increased independence, specifically financial, improving mental health and quality of life, and reducing parental stress.

Conclusions: Findings point to the importance of adopting a holistic view of employment and the need for interventions to focus on aspects beyond individuals with ASD themselves to factors in the environment, including workplace relationships, available supports and the attitudes of employers and co-workers towards ASD. Discussions highlighted that people with ASD commonly possess attributes highly valued in the work environments. As is recognised globally that employment is key in improving outcomes for all, findings from this study highlight that employment is key to improving outcomes in other major life areas for adults with ASD.