Changes in the quality of autistic people's life that work in supported and sheltered employment. A 5-year follow-up study

Authors: Gates, L. B., Klein, S. W., Akabas, S. H., Myers, R., Schawager, M., & Kaelin-Kee, J.
Year Published 2002
Publication Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Volume 17
Number 4
Pages 309-312
Publisher IOS Press

There is growing consensus that quality of life should dominate policies and services for individuals with autism. Supported employment is one service that enables individuals with autism with obtaining and maintaining meaningful community employment. It is important for professionals to understand how individuals with autism enjoy and benefit from various experiences.


The study evaluated the changes in the quality of life of adults with autism who worked in the community via supported employment versus those who were in sheltered work.


Individuals in the supported employment group worked in a variety of community jobs that were primarily in the service sector.


Fifty five adults with autism, who live in Spain and Germany, participated in the study. Twenty six individuals in sheltered work (18 males and 8 females) were matched to 25 individuals (21 males and 4 females) in a supported work. The mean age for both groups was around 21 years. The average IQ for members in both groups was about equal at about 53.

Data Collection

Data was collected through interviews with individuals with autism and their family, caretakers, and therapists using the Quality of Life Survey. The survey included 18 questions that were grouped in three categories: a) Environmental Control (EC), b) Community Involvement (CI), and Perception of Personal Change (PC). Each person with autism was interviewed in 1996 and again in 2000. If the individual with autism was not able to verbally communicate, the job coach was interviewed.


A group individuals with autism who participated in sheltered work was compared with supported employment group.


In 1996, at the start of the study, there was no difference between the sheltered and the supported work groups on total Quality of Life scores.
In 2000, the sheltered work group showed less quality of life than the supported work group in total score. The sheltered work group did not change its quality of life level between 1996 and 2000. The supported employment group improved its global quality of life.


There is a positive relationship between supported employment and quality of life. Supported employment seems to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism. Sheltered work does not seem to improve quality of life for individuals with autism.

Disabilities Autism Spectrum Disorder
Populations Male & Female
Outcomes Employment acquisition | Return to work
Research Design Case reports
Peer Reviewed Yes