Title

Perspectives regarding employment of individuals on the autism spectrum

Location

New River Room A

Start Time

2-10-2015 10:45 AM

End Time

2-10-2015 12:15 PM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

The purpose of this explanatory sequential mixed methods study was to examine the occupation of employment from the dual perspectives of employers and transitioning youth on the autism spectrum to gain a better understanding of the extremely low employment rate for this population. Through the lens of occupational justice, the act of doing is viewed as essential to the development of a person’s potential (Jakobsen, 2004). It is important to systematically examine and explain what a person is doing and how society enables such doing, particularly when barriers to participation may exist. Using a mixed methods design allowed researchers to fully explore and compare perspectives related to the critically important occupation of employment.

Unemployment rates for individuals on the autism spectrum exceed 88% (Wehman et al., 2014), suggesting barriers to occupational engagement exist (Jakobsen, 2004). Furthermore, those who are employed are typically under-employed, and they face higher rates of poverty, forcing many to be financially dependent on their families (Lindstrom, Kahn, & Lindsey, 2013). However, barriers to employment participation have not been fully explored, and it is unclear how perceptions may contribute to occupational deprivation in the area of employment for these individuals.

Researchers conducted a pilot study using surveys of 94 employers and 34 individuals on the autism spectrum aged 16-28, followed by focus groups and interviews with 4 employers and 8 transitioning youth. Analysis included descriptive statistics, qualitative coding and thematic development, and constant comparative methods. Comparison between perspectives of each of the two groups identified two consistent patterns that restricted the employment opportunities for transitioning youth on the autism spectrum: 1) lack of knowledge and 2) limited experiences. Employers identified a lack of knowledge about employment needs of individuals on the autism spectrum, while transitioning youth had limited knowledge of the constructs of employment, including knowledge of what entailed full-time employment. Additionally, employers who were surveyed and interviewed had no experience and many questions regarding employment of those on the autism spectrum. At the same time, transitioning youth in the study described very limited employment experiences.

This pilot study is one example of methodology that can be used to examine occupation from multiple perspectives to gain understanding that will contribute to the discipline of occupational science. Further exploration of the constructs of employment using a larger sample in future studies will provide information for further discussion of a critical occupation.

KEY Words: Employment Occupations, Autism, Mixed Methods

Discussion:

  1. How does mixed methods research uniquely contribute to the study of occupation?
  2. How can multiple perspectives of occupational participation contribute to greater understanding of an occupation?

References

Jakobsen, K. (2004). If work doesn’t work: How to enable occupational justice. Journal of Occupational Science, 11(3), 125-134. doi:10.1080/14427591.2004.9686540

Lindstrom, L., Kahn, L. G., & Lindsey, H. (2013). Navigating the early career years: Barriers and strategies for young adults with disabilities. Journal Of Vocational Rehabilitation, 39(1), 1-12. doi:10.3233/JVR-130637

Wehman, P. H., Schall, C. M., McDonough, J., Kregel, J., Brooke, V., Molinelli, A, Ham, W., Graham, C. E., Riehle, J.; Collins, H., & Thiss, W. (2014). Competitive employment for youth with autism spectrum disorders: Early results from a randomized clinical trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 487-500. doi: 10.1007/s10803-013-1892-x

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Oct 2nd, 10:45 AM Oct 2nd, 12:15 PM

Perspectives regarding employment of individuals on the autism spectrum

New River Room A

The purpose of this explanatory sequential mixed methods study was to examine the occupation of employment from the dual perspectives of employers and transitioning youth on the autism spectrum to gain a better understanding of the extremely low employment rate for this population. Through the lens of occupational justice, the act of doing is viewed as essential to the development of a person’s potential (Jakobsen, 2004). It is important to systematically examine and explain what a person is doing and how society enables such doing, particularly when barriers to participation may exist. Using a mixed methods design allowed researchers to fully explore and compare perspectives related to the critically important occupation of employment.

Unemployment rates for individuals on the autism spectrum exceed 88% (Wehman et al., 2014), suggesting barriers to occupational engagement exist (Jakobsen, 2004). Furthermore, those who are employed are typically under-employed, and they face higher rates of poverty, forcing many to be financially dependent on their families (Lindstrom, Kahn, & Lindsey, 2013). However, barriers to employment participation have not been fully explored, and it is unclear how perceptions may contribute to occupational deprivation in the area of employment for these individuals.

Researchers conducted a pilot study using surveys of 94 employers and 34 individuals on the autism spectrum aged 16-28, followed by focus groups and interviews with 4 employers and 8 transitioning youth. Analysis included descriptive statistics, qualitative coding and thematic development, and constant comparative methods. Comparison between perspectives of each of the two groups identified two consistent patterns that restricted the employment opportunities for transitioning youth on the autism spectrum: 1) lack of knowledge and 2) limited experiences. Employers identified a lack of knowledge about employment needs of individuals on the autism spectrum, while transitioning youth had limited knowledge of the constructs of employment, including knowledge of what entailed full-time employment. Additionally, employers who were surveyed and interviewed had no experience and many questions regarding employment of those on the autism spectrum. At the same time, transitioning youth in the study described very limited employment experiences.

This pilot study is one example of methodology that can be used to examine occupation from multiple perspectives to gain understanding that will contribute to the discipline of occupational science. Further exploration of the constructs of employment using a larger sample in future studies will provide information for further discussion of a critical occupation.

KEY Words: Employment Occupations, Autism, Mixed Methods

Discussion:

  1. How does mixed methods research uniquely contribute to the study of occupation?
  2. How can multiple perspectives of occupational participation contribute to greater understanding of an occupation?