A systematic review of vocational interventions for young adults with autism spectrum

Authors: Test, D.W., Mazzotti, V.L., Mustian, A.L., Fowler, C.H., Kortering, L., & Kohler, P.
Year Published 2012
Publication Pediatrics
Volume 130
Number 3
Pages 531-538
Publisher American Academy of Pediatrics

Not much is known about effective vocational interventions to assist individuals with ASD. Yet, that population is rapidly growing. Programs and interventions to serve youth are not well understood. The lack of information impacts successful transition to work.


The purpose of this systematic review of the literature was to assess the effectiveness of vocational interventions for individuals with ASD who are 13 to 30 years old.


The studies that were reviewed were undertaken in various locations and settings in the US, UK, Spain and Germany.


Multiple databases and reference lists were searched to find relevant studies that were published between 1980 and 2011. Afterwards, each study was examined against an inclusion criteria developed by an expert panel. Data about sample, intervention characteristics, assessment techniques, and outcomes, were evaluated and an overall quality and strength of evidence rating was assigned to the included studies according to a specific criteria. The final sample consisted of 5 studies involving young adults with autism.

Data Collection

Characteristics of study participants and interventions were summarized. Descriptive statistics were used to report study outcomes. No meta analysis was conducted.


There were no comparison or control conditions.


Only five studies, related to on the job supports and employment and vocational interventions were found. All of these received a poor quality rating by the reviewers which may be due to the fact that this is a new area of research. The studies included one non randomized trial that looked at the impact of supported employment versus sheltered work settings for 55 young adults with autism. A related study from the same researchers looked at the effect of supported employment versus sheltered work on the cognitive development of 44 young adults with autism. Two cohort studies and one cross sectional study reported on the influence of vocational interventions on independent living outcomes.


There is very little evidence about vocational interventions for individuals with ASD. High quality research is needed. Supported employment may be a promising intervention however much more research is needed.

URL http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/08/22/peds.2012-0682
Disabilities Autism Spectrum Disorder
Populations Other
Outcomes Other
Research Design Systematic reviews and meta-analysis
Peer Reviewed Yes