Klinger Receives Grant to Study Interventions for Improving Employment Skills of Adolescents with ASD

Dr. Mark R. Klinger, Associate Professor, has received a two-year, $120,000 grant from Autism Speaks to research ways to better prepare adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for productive, long-term employment.

Klinger Receives Grant to Study Interventions for  Improving Employment Skills of Adolescents with ASD
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Dr. Mark R. Klinger

The project, titled “Using Structured Teaching to Promote Employment Skills in Adolescents with ASD,” will study the efficacy of the TEACCH School Transition to Employment Program (T-STEP) intervention modules. 

“Current employment rates for individuals with ASD are low, with only 18% of young adults with ASD reported to be involved in competitive or supportive employment,” said Dr. Klinger. “As the number of children diagnosed with ASD rises each year, it’s crucial that we identify effective strategies to prepare young adults with ASD for the workforce, both for their personal development and to avoid overwhelming our adult service programs.”

With the support of two previous community service grants, the TEACCH Autism Program created the T-STEP, which is composed of six employment skills training modules that address ASD-related challenges to successful employment. Two modules target organization/executive function skills (approaching tasks in an organized manner, time management), two modules target social skills (asking for help, engaging in social niceties), and two modules target emotional regulation skills (accepting corrective feedback, coping with being upset in the moment). Each module integrates social skills techniques, cognitive behavioral techniques, and TEACCH structured teaching techniques.

The intervention modules have received high praise from school and community-based partners, but little data have been gathered about the effectiveness of this program in teaching employment skills to the students with ASD. Dr. Klinger will conduct a pilot study to examine the effectiveness of T-STEP for adolescents and young adults (16-21) with ASD.

Approximately 30 high school students with ASD in Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools and Guilford County Schools will receive the employment skills program. Each student will receive 18 intervention sessions through their home high school. Additionally, each student will participate in a school-based employment activity to provide an opportunity to practice intervention skills in an employment setting. Employment skills will be measured before and after the intervention.

Investigators predict that the intervention will lead to increased on-task work behavior, increased job-related social skills behavior, and improved coping with corrective feedback and changes in routine within a work environment. While the research team is intervening with high school students, the goal is to develop a program to improve adult vocational outcomes.

Autism Speaks announced the funding of “Using Structured Teaching to Promote Employment Skills in Adolescents with ASD,” and 12 other projects on January 2, 2014. Click here to read more about the other research endeavors.

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