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Autism. 2017 Nov;21(8):929-941. doi: 10.1177/1362361316661855. Epub 2016 Aug 18.

Employment programmes and interventions targeting adults with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review of the literature.

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1 Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University, Australia.
2 Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), Australia.
3 University of Calcutta, India.


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder face significant challenges entering the workforce; yet research in this area is limited and the issues are poorly understood. In this systematic review, empirical peer-reviewed studies on employment programmes, interventions and employment-related outcomes in individuals with autism spectrum disorder over 18 years with and without intellectual disability were identified and evaluated. The review was prefaced by a summary of previous systematic reviews in the area. Web of Science, Medline, PsychINFO, ERIC and Scopus databases were systematically searched through to October 2015. From 32,829 records identified in the initial search, 10 review and 50 empirical articles, comprising N = 58,134 individuals with autism spectrum disorder, were included in the review. Selected articles were organised into the following themes: employment experiences, employment as a primary outcome, development of workplace skills, non-employment-related outcomes, assessment instruments, employer-focused and economic impact. Empirical studies were limited by poor participant characterisation, small sample size and/or a lack of randomisation and use of appropriate controls. Poor conceptualisation and measurement of outcomes significantly limited study quality and interpretation. Future research will require a multidisciplinary and multifaceted approach to explore employment outcomes on the individual, the family system, co-workers and the employer, along with the impact of individual differences on outcome.


autism spectrum disorder; competitive employment; outcome; supported employment; vocational rehabilitation; vocational support; vocational training

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