Using Structured Teaching to Promote Employment Skills in Adolescents with ASD
University of North Carolina
As the number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) rises, there will be an increasingly large adult population for whom the challenges of gaining productive, long-term employment will likely overwhelm current adult service programs. Current employment rates for individuals with ASD are low, with only 18% of young adults with ASD reported to be involved in competitive or supportive employment. Through the support of two previous community service grants, the TEACCH Autism Program created six employment skills modules targeting pivotal organizational and social-emotional skills essential to successful employment. Two modules target organization/executive function skills (approaching tasks in an organized manner, time management), two modules target social skills (asking for help, engaging in social niceties), and two modules target emotional regulation skills (accepting corrective feedback, coping with being upset in the moment). Each module integrates social skills techniques, cognitive behavioral techniques, and TEACCH structured teaching techniques. The intervention modules have received high praise from school and community-based partners. However, little data has been gathered about the effectiveness of this program in teaching employment skills to the students with ASD. The focus of this project is to conduct a pilot study to examine the effectiveness of the TEACCH employment skills modules for adolescents and young adults (16-21) with ASD. Approximately 30 high school students with ASD will receive the employment skills program. Each student will receive 18 intervention sessions through their home high school. Additionally, each student will participate in a school-based employment activity to provide an opportunity to practice intervention skills in an employment setting. Employment skills will be measured before and after the intervention. The investigators predict that the intervention will lead to increased on-task work behavior, increased job-related social skills behavior, and improved coping with corrective feedback and changes in routine within a work environment. While the research team is intervening with high school students, the goal is to develop a program to improve adult vocational outcomes.