Addressing the Employment Gap with Workplace Supports for Transition-Age Autistic Youth and Young Adults

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Transition-age youth and young adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have notably low rates of employment, compared to not only their peers without disabilities, but also compared to their peers with different disabilities. As such, the adoption of additional workplace tools and accommodations to better support transition-age autistic individuals is needed. This dissertation aimed to address this employment gap through examination of different employment supports for transition-age autistic youth and young adults. Chapter 2 is a synthesis of the literature on the use of video-based intervention (VBI) to teach vocational skills to transition-age autistic youth and young adults. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, this synthesis evaluated 22 studies, finding VBI to be an effective vocational training and support tool for this population. However, the synthesis also identified a lack of authentic implementation of VBI for vocational skills, or implementation by practitioners in real workplace settings. Chapter 3 is an experimental study which sought to examine the effectiveness of VBI when implemented in authentic employment settings and how to train practitioners to do so. The study had two aims: to evaluate the effects of a behavioral skills training (BST) package on vocational support practitioners’ creation and implementation of VBI, and to evaluate the effects of the resulting practitioner-created and -implemented VBI on the vocational skill acquisition of transition-age autistic adults in authentic workplace settings. This study ultimately found that both the BST package and resulting VBI were effective and socially valid. Chapter 4 is a qualitative study that sought to expand upon the topic of workplace supports for autistic youth and young adults by interviewing 12 currently or formerly employed transition-age autistic individuals. The qualitative study had two major aims: to determine what transition-age autistic individuals identify as key workplace supports, as well as their experiences with and views of technology-based work supports, specifically. Through qualitative interviews and analysis, the study identified six major themes for key workplace supports, and four for technology-based supports. The themes, their related subthemes, and practical implications for employers are discussed.