Establishing Best Practices in the Implementation and Evaluation of Novel Employment Programs for High School Students with ASD: A Case Study
Employment initiatives for youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have increased within clinical, educational and community settings. Rigorous implementation and evaluation procedures are essential for advancing evidence-based research on effective vocational training and supports for individuals with ASD. Knowing how to demonstrate fidelity in program delivery, specifically with job supports, and what outcomes are identified to examine participant progress are critical but underdeveloped in research. This study describes the measurement model, outcomes, and lessons learned from the Job-Train Program (JTP), a community-based employment program that involved paid-summer employment for high school students with ASD on a university campus.
(1) Examine the implementation of job supports within JTP.
(2) Evaluate student participant outcomes within JTP.
Examining employment supports involved procedures to prepare job coaches and worksites for their role with JTP participants. Job coach training and ongoing online support were provided through a manualized job coaching program. Fidelity evaluation of coaches supporting participants on job placements was measured using a fidelity checklist of 14 behaviours to evaluate 5-10 minute videos from the worksite. Fidelity checklists were completed twice for job coaches, at the start and towards the end of work placements.
Student primary outcome measures were collected to: examine performance and satisfaction in employment-related issues measured through the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure; and evaluate emotional and behavioral problems, measured by the Child Behavior Checklist. Secondary outcomes included areas of work readiness and everyday functioning of participants within JTP. Weekly observational data of participants (over 5 weeks) were rated on a 5-point scale by Job Coaches, regarding job performance, conversation skills and safety awareness. Qualitative outcome data were collected from students, parents, and job coaches.
A total of 12 credit-bearing high school students with ASD participated in JTP (age: 16.2 [0.8] years; 92% males). Secondary diagnoses included anxiety (33%) and ADHD (42%). Campus job placements included roles within the library, office settings at various departments and research centers, campus mailroom and residential suites. Students were supported by three Job Coaches. Fidelity checklist ratings of multiple videos across all Job Coaches included an average score of 45.2% early on in job placement, and 90.5% towards the end. Qualitative feedback was provided by job coaches on job placement videos and the fidelity checklist (to be analyzed and presented at conference). Primary and secondary outcomes are currently being collected based on pre-post measures and will be analyzed using parametric and non-parametric methods (to be analyzed and presented at conference). Average participant observational data in the workplace demonstrated positive improvements from time 1 to time 5 for areas of job performance (2.7 to 4.5), conversation skills (2.9 to 4.1), and safety awareness (3.2 to 4.3).
Evaluation of fidelity checklist outcomes demonstrated gradual improvement in Job Coaches’ implementation of key behaviours when comparing ratings at two time points over job placement. JTP students improved in their job and conversation skills and safety awareness on their job placements. Quantitative and qualitative outcomes will be analyzed and reported in conference presentation.