Vocational support approaches in autism spectrum disorder: A synthesis review of the literature

Authors: Nieuwenhuijsen, K., Bos-Ransdrop, B., Uitterhoeve, L. L. J., Sprangers, M. A. G., & Verbeek, J. H. A. M.
Year Published 2014
Publication Autism
Volume 1
Number 1
Pages 1-11
Publisher Sage

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder have poor employment outcomes. Those who are employed typically work part time and in low skilled occupations.
The literature cites a number of challenges for individuals with ASD. It also suggest dissatisfaction with existing ASD vocational supports. The few studies that do exist suggest using models that support a person with ASD in the workplace. However little is known about the application of these supports.


This review of the literature takes a look at the overall state of the vocational support intervention literature related to autism spectrum disorder.


This study is a systematic review. The included studies were undertaken in various locations and settings.


The sample included 10 studies about employment support for adults and youth with autism spectrum disorder.

Data Collection

A total of 22,878 studies were retrieved using databases comprised of Cochrane, Scholar's Portal, CINAHL,EMBASE, ERIC, Medline, PsycINFO, Google Scholar, Google, review of key ASD Association websites. All articles identified were reviewed using a 3 state retrieval and synthesis process including: initial screening, strict screening for inclusion or exclusion and data extraction and article review. A conceptual scheme was developed for cross comparison of studies whereby interventions and outcomes were reviewed, analyzed and categorized to a common theme.


There were no comparison or control conditions.


The search led to 22,878 autism related intervention studies. After reviewed using a broad inclusion criteria, the number was reduced to 3974. Of the 3974, 501 targeted individuals 18 and over. These were reviewed for specific elements related to vocational intervention and outcome. In total 10 articles were identified. The following categories were found: supported employment comprising of community placement and jobcoaching (8 studies); technology-related applications including media and online use (2 studies).Of the 10 studies identified four focused on individuals with Asperger's Syndrome, and most include a substantial portion of more cognitively able adults with ASD. The literature focuses on using a supported employment approach with an emerging focus on technology related tools.


The vocational literature is not substantial in this area. The existing literature must be reviewed with caution due to its low volume and research design issues. It does offer provisional guidance however, more research is needed.

URL http://www.autismalberta.ca/files/Vocational_Support_Approaches.pdf
Disabilities Autism Spectrum Disorder
Outcomes Employment acquisition
NIDILRR Funded Yes
Research Design Systematic reviews and meta-analysis
Peer Reviewed Yes