The Apple iPod Touch as a vocational support aid for adults with autism: Three case studies

Authors: Gersons,B. P. R., Carlier,I. V. E., Lamberts, R. D., & van der Kolk, B. A.
Year Published 2012
Publication Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Volume 37
Number 2
Pages 75-85
Publisher Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation

Personal digital assistants (PDAs) offer task management and organizational features that may be utilized to help people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) function more successfully in the workplace. However, most of the focus in autism research is on the identification, assessment and treatment of children; few studies examine interventions and outcomes in adulthood. As a result, evidence-based programs of workplace support are limited.


The purpose of the study was to determine if supported employment could improve the cognitive performance of individuals with autism. More specific, the researchers wanted to know what types of employment might have such benefits? Does supported employment also improve non-vocational outcomes?


The setting included three employment sites in 3 different businesses.


The three people profiled were adults with autism spectrum disorder who were participants in a 4 year randomized trial examining the use of these devices as job coaching aids in the workplace. The participants were: a 21-year-old man working as a daytime custodian in a fast food restaurant, a woman aged 60 years responsible for processing incoming mail at an office, and a 20-year-old female non-reading hospital worker,

Data Collection

Data was maintained for each study participant on average hours worked per week, average job coach direct verbal/gestural supervision hours per week, and average job coach indirect monitoring hours per week. Date was also maintained on software applications used.


There was no control or comparison condition.


Participants wore the portable PDAs, clipped to a belt or with a lanyard around their neck, as vocational supports throughout their workday for a period of six months, resulting in improved functional performance and reduced behavioral challenges


PDAs should be considered as an assistive technology for use with people with cognitive-behavioral conditions. The partnership of an Occupational therapist familiar with task analysis, PDAs and applications and an employment specialist onsite at the job site can facilitate successful individualized strategies for vocational support using PDAs.

Disabilities Autism Spectrum Disorder
Populations Male & Female
Outcomes Increase in hours worked
NIDILRR Funded Yes
Research Design Case reports
Peer Reviewed Yes