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Autism and Skilled Employment

What is the “Autism and skilled employment: An exploratory study to inform future intervention” project?

This pilot project aims to 1) understand the perspectives of autistic people who have looked for professional work, their employers, and individuals in key positions within the employment system; 2) identify areas of leverage within broader employment systems; 3) develop a concrete, specific intervention plan based on what we’ve learned, in collaboration with key stakeholders; 4) increase AASPIRE’s capacity in the area of employment.

For this project, we define “skilled” or “professional” employment as any job that needs special training or education beyond what is typically given during the first few weeks of job training (however a person has gotten that special training or education). For example, plumber, electrician, physicist, graphic designer, mathematician, social worker, computer programmer, police officer, welder, carpenter, chef, or teacher.

This is a two-year project. In the first year, we will conduct individual interviews with 1) 25 autistic people who have gotten and 25 autistic people who are seeking skilled employment; 2) 25 employers or supervisors who have successfully employed/supervised autistic workers in skilled jobs; and 3) 10 key informants from employment “systems” (vocational rehabilitation, higher education, supported employment agencies, businesses that employ only autistic people, etc.). We will use this data to put together a model to help us understand what makes it easier for autistic people to find and keep professional jobs that they feel are successful.

In the second year, we will use what we learned in the interviews, our model, and the input from small work-groups of stakeholders to develop an idea for an intervention to make more successful outcomes. At the end of the second year, we’ll do a few last interviews to learn how the people who might be affected by the intervention feel about our ideas. This information can then be used in future research to implement the intervention.

What are the next steps in the project?

We are currently recruiting autistic employees and job seekers, and people who supervise and/or support autistic employees for individual interviews.

Flier for Employees and Job-seekers

Flier for Supervisors and Supporters


This project is funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (award #1R21MH112038-01) and the BUILD EXITO program at Portland State University (award #ULIGM118964 (NIGMS)).

PSU IRB #163820

Principal Investigator: Dora Raymaker, PhD, Portland State University

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