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Autism Spectrum Disorder and Supported Employment

In Autism Spectrum Disorder, Disability Specific, Featured, Findings, News, Research Findings by SVRI

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that makes it difficult for individuals to understand social cues and facial expressions, express emotions appropriately, and adapt to change.  Many people with ASD have difficulty forming relationships, using language, and interpreting and responding to the world around them.  Although many people with ASD have the desire to work, an estimated 50-75% of adults with ASD are unemployed.


Studies have shown that people with ASD can work successfully when the right type, level, and intensity of support is available. Supported employment (SE) can be used to help people find the right “mix” of supports.  When providing SE to a person with ASD, consider providing highly individualized support in the following areas:

  • Career search and job interviews
  • Disclosure
  • Transportation
  • Job customization
  • Instructional support
  • Developing compensatory strategies
  • Co-worker education
  • Change of management


In a recent study, 27 of 33 vocational rehabilitation (VR) clients with ASD were successful in getting and maintaining employment, with ongoing employment support from an employment specialist. The support time required to achieve this average was just over 100 hours, with support time needed decreasing over time and long-term supports provided to all employees with ASD.

Bottom Line

Research has shown that people with ASD can work successfully when provided with the right type, level, and intensity of supported employment.

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Source: Wehman, P., Lau, S., Molinelli, A., Brooke, V., ; Thompson, K., Moore, C., & West, M. (2012). Supported employment for young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Preliminary data. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 37 (3), 160-169.

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