Vocational support needs of people with disabilities
Employment can bring positive outcomes for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but a new analysis says more long-term support is needed to help people reach their full potential.
Researchers from Flinders University’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences asked nine people with ASD about their experiences of finding and receiving a job on the regular job market, known as open employment.
The analysis found that while people felt supported in finding a job and found positive outcomes in employment, it found that support eventually became minimal, leaving individuals with little career progress or stuck in roles that under-skilled them used.
“People with ASD face many obstacles when looking for a job, such as difficulties interviewing, communicating, and understanding workplace culture,” says lead author and Honors student Melissa Sharpe.
“Despite the fact that people with ASD often have high-level or multiple qualifications, they are much less likely to be in the labor force, with only 38% of adults with ASD being in the labor force, compared to 84% of working-age Australians without a disability.”
The study found that individuals with ASD received support from many different sources in their employment, including supervisors, peers, parents, and disability employment counselors.
However, the support they received from the counselors was more focused on obtaining a job than retaining the job or career advancement, leaving some individuals with poor job matches or untapped qualifications and skills.
“We found that career advancement was rarely discussed by participants with their disability employment counselor, who often saw that people’s skills were underutilized. This is a poor return for both society and the individual who has invested time and money in acquiring these qualifications,” says co-author dr Claire Hutchinson.
“Without being able to advance future career moves with their advisor, an individual likely does not have the skills or knowledge to advance their employment alone.”
The study found that participants experienced a range of positive aspects associated with employment, including feeling successful because they had a job, feeling proud of their work, feeling valued by colleagues, and feeling empowered enjoy social inclusion, which is a key goal of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“This only validates the value of helping people with ASD and others with a disability to find meaningful employment,” says co-author dr June Alexander.
“However, the current model of disability employment is too short term and people with ASD or a disability need longer term support if we are to ensure they advance in their careers and make the most of their skills.
“We need a variety of models and person-centred support, and we need to ensure that disability employment providers have sufficient resources or incentives to support longer-term career development. Without them, people with ASD may remain in low-skill entry-level positions throughout their working lives.”
“The Lived Experiences and Perspectives of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Mainstream Employment in Australia” by Melissa Sharpe, Claire Hutchinson and June Alexander is published in Disabilities journal. DOI: 10.3390/disabilities2020013