Creating the ASD-EF employment program
We need your support to create a 12-week group workshop to help adults with autism spectrum disorders succeed in higher education and the workplace.
In Canada, adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) receive support in high school to prepare them for life beyond graduation, but the transition to adulthood and the world of work is not always successful. Even among adults with ASD that earn university degrees or professional accreditation, rates of employment are very low and this has both financial and mental health costs.
It has been estimated that as many as 80% of people with ASDs can also show deficits in Executive Functions (EF). EF is a term used to describe mental processes such as working memory, planning and organization, and time management. The work of one of our team members, Dr. Rashmeen Nirmal, shows that these deficits interfere with student success in post-secondary school training.
Many of the EF skills that neurotypical people develop intuitively can be taught directly to adults with ASDs. Group workshops like this exist for adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and school children with ASDs, but we need something that is appropriate for adults with ASDs who want to gain and maintain employment.
With your support, we intend to:
- develop group workshop materials targeting EF specifically in adults with ASDs with employment in mind
- test the workshop by forming study testing groups, and
- revise the workshop sections and publish these as a handbook and materials.
This group workshop will use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques. The CBT approach is successful in evidence-based programs that help adults with other conditions such as ADHD.
For more information, please visit our Facebook page.
Challenges & Impact
We want to create a resource that able adults with ASDs will value. When we gathered information from focus groups to support this project, we asked young adults with ASDs what would make a group workshop like this most useful for them. They replied that it would be most meaningful if they were able to use the skills in specific situations in their own lives, such as during job interviewing, adapting to a new workplace culture, self-advocacy skills or improving flexibility on the job. The workshop guidelines will take each individual’s own situation into account to show how the EF skills can be used in context, and how to generalize the principles to other situations. We will measure improvements using tests of real-world executive functioning. Making sure these methods work will require both staff and testing materials.
Your donation will pay for the students and staff to recruit and organize our initial participants and the testing materials to measure changes in EF skills. Your donation will also pay for the initial drafting and test of the group workshop.
About the ASD-EF Program
We have a talented and diverse group guiding the project’s development. We have first-hand clinical experience with adults with ASDs overcoming challenges in work and life, and with adolescents approaching the transition into the world of work and post-secondary education. With Dr. Liz Laugeson, the author of the similar PEERS program for teens with ASDs, and Dr. Candice Murray, the developer of a program for adults with ADHD, we have the added benefit of their experiences in developing this kind of program.