Tenth Annual Grant Winners 2009-2010
H. Wells Singleton, Ph.D.
Karen Grosby, M.Ed
Maribel Del Rio-Roberts, Psy.D.
Elda Veloso, Ph.D.
James Pann, Ph.D.
Title: Employability Skills Group for Adults with Asperger Syndrome (AS)
Asperger Syndrome (AS), one of the five neurodevelopmental disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), is characterized by significant impairments in social and communication skills, as well as restricted, repetitive or stereotyped interests or activities. Despite average to above average intelligence, difficulties in the area of social skills negatively impact the AS individual in his or her ability to perform at a job interview, understand the rules of social engagement on the job (i.e., understanding the concept of personal space, prolonged or infrequent eye contact, etc.), and understand the “team” aspects of employment (Attwood, 2007, p.22). While increased attention has been given to the developmental characteristics, assessment, diagnosis, and educational support needs of children with AS, there is a paucity of research which examines the psychosocial and vocational characteristics of adolescents and adults with AS and the supports they need in order to successfully transition from school to the workplace, despite unemployment rates of approximately 80% or greater in persons with AS (Higgins, Koch, Boughfman, & Vierstra, 2008; Hawkins, 2004). The goal of the proposed study is to bridge this gap through the implementation of an employability skills group that will blend cognitive-behavioral techniques, such as direct instruction, modeling, role-play, performance feedback, and reinforcement, which have been found to be effective in improving social functioning in individuals with AS and high-functioning ASD. A mixed-methods approach will be used to investigate the effectiveness of this program in increasing work-related autonomy and improving the quality of life of adults with AS.