Employment and Autism Spectrum Disorder: an evaluation of technology-aided interventions on teaching and improving skills necessary for workplace inclusion
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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex, life-long, neurodevelopmental disorder that is associated with high unemployment rates and community participation restrictions that impact quality of life. In recent years, there has been a rapid uptake in the incorporation of technology in educational settings. This thesis evaluated the use of technology in teaching employment skills for adults with ASD. Study 1 conducted a systematic review of technology-aided interventions. The findings showed empirical evidence supporting the use of technology for teaching a variety of employment skills. Findings also indicated that the majority of evidence is derived from samples of the High Functioning Autism (HFA) and/or Asperger’s population with limited research investigating adults with ASD who present with co-occurring Intellectual Disabilities (ID). Using the criteria of Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) proposed by Reichow (2011) the body of research to date enables technology-aided interventions to be classified as probable in EBP. Thus, underlining the need for continued research. Study 2 employed a Single-Subject Research Design (SSRD) to evaluate the effects of a technology based pre-work assessment on determining job specific preferences for three adults with ASD and ID. An alternating treatments design was used to investigate the assessment on job performance. Participants were exposed to three job conditions each week, High Preference High Match (HPHM), High Preference Low Match (HPLM), and a Low Preference Low Match (LPLM) job. The findings of the study indicated that the high preference job conditions produced higher levels of job performance irrespective of skills match. Study 3 investigated the effects of the Walker Social Skills curriculum: the ACCESS program (Adolescent Curriculum for Communication and Effective Social Skills) and video modeling to improve the generic skills necessary for workplace inclusion. A multiple probe design was used to demonstrate social skills outcomes across three broad curricular areas (i.e., peer-related, adult related and self-related social skills). Standardized assessments were also taken pre-/post- intervention. Significant increases in social skills were found following the Social Skills Training (SST) with maintenance outcomes observed three months post-intervention. Study 4 extended upon the findings of Study 3 and investigated the efficacy of the social skills intervention with the addition of generalization programming to target social skills for community inclusion. A multiple probe SSRD with pre-/post- standardized assessment was used to evaluate social skills outcomes. Results showed a significant increase in social skills with evidence of skills generalizing to natural environments. These findings make a significant contribution in developing the evidence base for technology-aided interventions to improve employment skills and promote social inclusion for adults with ASD by examining interventions for individuals who present with lower functioning profiles, which was previously limited in the research base.