News In Research and Intervention
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.
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.
Recent Research Indicates Technology Improves Language for Students with ASD
In recent years, many types of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), or speech generating devices, have become a popular choice for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who experience speech and language difficulty. A newly released study funded by Autism Speaks suggests that the use of a speech generating device in conjunction with play-based therapy can be beneficial for the development of spoken language specifically in students with ASD. The study, led by educational psychologist Connie Kasari, Ph.D., examined 60 students with ASD ranging from age 5 to age 8 who used less than 20 words. All children were provided with two hours of play-based interventions per week; however, half of the children were also exposed to a speech generating device during their session. After 3 months, those who responded slowly to play-based therapy only were then also given access to a device during therapy and an extra hour of therapy each week. At the end of six months, all children demonstrated spoken language gains; however, the students who began therapy with a device made earlier and faster progress than those who did not. This study, along with other previous studies into AAC and language development, suggests that the use of AAC has the potential to facilitate spoken language, even in nonverbal children with ASD over the age of five years.
For more information about the study, click here.
For more information about technology, including AAC, and ASD, please click here.
Advancements in ASD Research Noted
In a recent article in the Huffington Post (April 2, 2013), Geraldine Dawson, the Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks, noted ten significant advances in our knowledge about ASD over the last year. Dr. Dawson highlighted the best of ASD related research by starting with evidence that suggests early intervention can actually improve brain functioning, and may contribute to many children improving so much they often no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for ASD later in life. Other advancements of note include research that suggests siblings may often have developmental delays (but not ASD); peer training improves a student’s success with social skills; bolting or wandering is a common problem among individuals with ASD; and prenatal folic acid plays an important role in reducing the risk of ASD. Promising results from initial studies also indicate progress in regards to ASD related medications and ASD related products and services. To view the entire article and access the results from these research studies, please click here.
Research indicates that Nonverbal Individuals with ASD may Develop Language Later
According to Autism Speaks (March 4, 2013), a new study by the Scientists at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Baltimore suggests that individuals with ASD who are nonverbal at a young age may still develop language later in life. In a study of over 500 children with ASD, who had not acquired language before the age of 4 years, 70% later learned to speak in simple phrases and 47% developed fluent speech. The study also suggests that cognitive aptitude and level of social ability are two factors influencing the development of speech. However, the level and intensity of repetitive behavior and restricted interests appeared to have no impact on language development. For more information, please click here.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Releases Annual List of Scientific Advances!
Each year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) releases its annual list of scientific advances that represent significant progress in the field. According to the IACC, “The 20 studies selected have given new insight into the complex causes of autism and potential risk factors, studied clues that could lead to earlier diagnosis, and evaluated promising early intervention strategies. The advances also address the prevalence of ASD both in the United States and internationally, as well as the service needs of people with ASD across the lifespan.” The articles chosen for the 2012 Summary of Advances are selected by the IACC from a pool of peer-reviewed articles, which are then grouped according to the questions of the IACC Strategic Plan for ASD Research. VCU-ACE is pleased to share that an article co-authored by Executive Director, Paul Wehman, Ph.D. was chosen for inclusion under Question 6: What Does the Future Hold, Particularly for Adults? Please visit the IACC website to review the entire list!
New Employment Tool Kit Developed by Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks has developed an Employment Tool Kit to help individuals with autism research, find, and keep employment in the current, competitive labor market. Stories, tips and resources were developed from a collaboration of people, including adults with autism, dedicated to increasing the employment participation of adults on the spectrum. Families, transition coordinators, vocational rehabilitation staff, business leaders, and anyone who is helping someone with autism find and keep employment will also his resource helpful.