Project ABLE (Autism: Building Links to Employment): A specialist employment service for young people and adults with an autism spectrum condition

Authors: Lysaker P. H., Bond G., Davis L. W., Bryson G.J., & Bell, M.D.
Year Published 2014
Publication Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Volume 41
Number 1
Pages 13-21
Publisher IOS Press

Individuals with Autism face high rates of unemployment due to a myriad of challenges. There have been some reports that participating in an employability program early on can improve work outcome for this group.


This study examined using a customized approach to either develop or improve employability skills of individuals with Autism.


The settings included work experience sites across a wide range of community businesses.


Participants included 27 students in special education, 15 young adults who were preparing to leave or who had recently left school and 30 who were 18 or older who were not in secondary education in Ireland. All but 4 of the participants were males. The cognitive profile varied among participants and included 27 individuals who had severe learning disability opposed to 14 who were high functioning. All were unemployed.

Data Collection

An action research approach was used. Results were presented for each 3 groups of participants. The individualized approach was successful for 17 of the adult participants. By the end of year four 56% had secured full time and part time work. Among the special education group 27 people had the chance to participate in one to three work experiences. Eighteen required one to one ongoing support throughout the duration of the work placement. Some parents of the young adults in this group reported feeling less anxious about what would happen when the child left school. The mainstream group required work experience for short periods of time. A program spanning the entire school year was not possible due to difficulties associated with being released from school. During the engagement phase individuals completed a individual induction, an assessment, a vocational profile, and an action plan. The plan was reviewed and updated every six months.


There was no control or comparison condition.


The majority or 95% of the participants experience at least one work experience and 66% had two or more placements. Most individuals 47% worked in retail this was followed by job in administration (24%). Experiences lasted between six weeks to six months or more. The experiences took place across all types of businesses and included retail, business, catering and more. Some individuals also went on to secure employment. Feedback was solicited from participants through interviews and focus groups. They indicated a number of key areas improvement; the top two were better use of time and vocational skills.


Work preparation and employability training at an early stage appears to help young people with autism spectrum condition in Ireland successfully transition from school to work. A Supported Employment Model assisted young people with autism spectrum condition prepare for and enter work.

Disabilities Autism Spectrum Disorder
Populations Transition-age youth (14 - 24) | Male & Female
Outcomes Employment acquisition
Research Design Mixed methods
Peer Reviewed Yes