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Archived News: In Research and Intervention
August 2013

VCU Study Shows Job Training Results in Competitive Employment for Youth with Autism

VCU Study Shows Job Training Results in Competitive Employment for Youth with Autism
(Press Information released by Mike Frontiero, VCU School of Education, Richmond, VA, July 29, 2013)

A Virginia Commonwealth University study shows intensive job training benefits youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), one of the most challenging disabilities in the world where only 20 percent find employment. Published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the study demonstrates that nine months of intensive internship training, in conjunction with an engaged hospital, can lead to high levels of competitive employment in areas such as cardiac care, wellness, ambulatory surgery and pediatric intensive care units.

“This is the first study of its kind to demonstrate the skills and abilities youth with ASD have and the success they can experience at work,” said Paul H. Wehman, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study and Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Director of the VCU Autism Center for Excellence at the VCU School of Education. “Previous research in this area showed that youth with ASD were employed at lower rates than even their peers with other disabilities.”

Traditionally, youth with autism between the ages of 18 and 22 remain unemployed after leaving school at rates of over 80 percent. But VCU researchers reported that those who completed a program called “Project SEARCH with Autism Supports” achieved employment at 87 percent. This study also showed that youth with ASD required less intense support as they became more competent at their work task. VCU partnered on the study with Bon Secours Richmond Health System St. Mary's Hospital in Henrico County, VA and St. Francis Medical Center in Chesterfield County, VA; Henrico County Public Schools; Chesterfield County Public Schools; and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).

“Bon Secours has participated in Project SEARCH since 2010 and each year we find the students add a tremendous value to our team of caregivers,” said Michael Spine, Bon Secours Health System Senior Vice President of Business Development. “Project SEARCH graduates are permanent and important members of our staff, working throughout the hospitals in a variety of areas including labor and delivery, our cardiac units and wellness.”

“Witnessing how these ‘disabled students’ are transformed into valued employees and colleagues during their Project SEARCH year is the best example of how our system can be successful when our collaboration is employed,” said DARS Commissioner James A. Rothrock. “Getting a job is the central accomplishment in life for all 20-year-olds,” said study co-investigator Carol M. Schall, Ph.D., Director of Technical Assistance for the VCU Autism Center for Excellence and Virginia Autism Resource Center. “For far too long, youth with ASD have been left out of that elated feeling that adults have when they get their first real employment. Through this study, we were able to demonstrate that youth with ASD can be successful employees.” Youth with autism were employed in jobs not typically considered for those with disabilities in a hospital setting. They worked 20 to 40 hours per week and were paid 24 percent more than minimum wage.

The study is published online at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-013-1892-x
It was funded by the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) grant #H133B080027 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), and by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

Article Reference:
Wehman, P. H., Schall, C. M., McDonough, J., Kregel, J., Brooke, V., Molinelli, A., Ham, W., Graham, C. W., Riehle, J. E., Collins, H. T., & Thiss, W. (2013). Competitive employment for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Early results from a randomized clinical trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI 10.1007/s10803-013-1892-x

Research Brief providing presentation of results on Project SEARCH with ASD Supports.

 

Autism Speaks Requests Input through the National Housing and Residential Supports Survey

Autism Speaks is providing an important opportunity for individuals with autism and their families and caregivers to share needs and hopes for the future. The Autism Speaks Housing and Residential Supports Survey is designed for individuals with autism aged 14 and up and their caregivers and will only take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. Complete it for a chance to win a FREE iPad!

 

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