Employment for Individuals with Autism

SEDL works to improve the quality, relevance, and use of disability research and services—including those for increasing employment. We accomplish this mission through research, technical assistance, training, and information dissemination.

Learning from Others’ Journeys

The staff at Productive Opportunities for Work and Recreation (POW&R) in Newark, Delaware, are putting people to work. And they are achieving results with some of the hardest-to-place clients—those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). 

The 1.5 million Americans with ASD face extremely high unemployment, even among people with disabilities. At the same time, the number of people with ASD is rising. Vocational rehabilitation agencies are feeling the strain. Many of them have limited experience assisting people with ASD and need guidance.

SEDL is providing this guidance by identifying and publicizing successful community-based programs like POW&R. Our Disability Research to Practice group is doing this work as part of a 5-year initiative to improve employment services and outcomes for people with ASD. The work is in partnership with the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of Central Florida.

In 2010, the project team identified three exemplary programs, including POW&R. The selection involved a rigorous nomination and validation process. Staff are promoting the programs’ services as models for state vocational rehabilitation agencies, service providers, and families of people with ASD. Each year, the team conducts a new selection process to identify effective programs and develop an expanding guide of model services.

Assessing Other Routes

In 2010, the team also continued work on two systematic reviews of research studies. The reviews seek to identify ASD employment services and school-to-work interventions backed by high-quality evidence. Systematic reviews use rigorous procedures to search for, analyze, and synthesize the findings of all high-quality research studies on a specific topic.

Through such efforts, we are developing a roadmap for helping adults with ASD find rewarding employment.