Autism in the Workplace

Autistic people may struggle to hold a job

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may struggle with finding and keeping a job. Programs are not widely available to help adults with autism succeed at the work. 

There are no programs that help adults with ASD in the workplace that have been tested on a large-scale.

More testing of work-related programs is needed to help people with ASD as they become working adults.

"Ask your psychiatrist about job-related support."

By some estimates, only one-third of adults with ASD have a steady job. Most autism programs focus on development through the school years.

Researchers, led by Julie Lounds Taylor, PhD, at the Department of Pediatrics of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville, Tenn., looked at scientific studies of programs aimed at helping people with ASD succeed in the workplace.

They looked for studies that had work-related programs for teens and young adults with ASD.

Five studies were published that tested their program on more than 20 people. Any studies that used less than 20 people were considered too small to give meaningful results.

All of the studies they looked at provided a program to help people with ASD while they were working at a job.  None of them were aimed at helping them to get a job.

Three of the studies showed higher rates of employment for people in the program. One of the studies found that ASD symptoms got better.

Another study found that people reported better quality of life. One other found improved thinking skills.

The researchers were not able to compare the programs in detail because each of them used a different program to help people with ASD.

Dr. Lounds’ group also found that there were many problems with the research in each of the five studies.

None of the studies randomly assigned people to treatments and control groups. Some of them did not have a control group – meaning they did compare their treatment to a group of people who did not get the treatment. 

Only one of the studies looked at the how well the program worked long-term. 

The authors concluded that some of the programs helped people with ASD succeed at work. However, the research is too limited to understand which on-the-job interventions are best. 

The authors also noted that the only way programs will become widely available is if large, controlled studies are done. 

This review was published August 27 in Pediatrics. Funding for this project came from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Authors on this study report financial associations with Roche Pharmaceuticals, Novartis, and Autism Speaks.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 29, 2012
Last Updated:
August 30, 2012