Transition to Work With Autism

Autism can create problems for teens leaving high school

(RxWiki News) Recent reports show that teens with autism are more likely to have trouble transitioning out of high school and into work. New research shows that a transition program may help.

Preliminary findings from a study enrolling teens with autism into Project SEARCH, a transition program for children with learning difficulties, shows promise for helping teens with autism move into the workforce.

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In an ongoing trial led by Staci Carr at Virginia Commonwealth University, 14 participants with autism have been enrolled in Project SEARCH for two years.  They have been tracking 10 other students who did not take part in the program.

Project SEARCH is for teens with educational and developmental difficulties. It is a specialized curriculum that focuses on skills needed to transition to work, like job interviewing and workplace social skills.

The program also connects students with internships to get on-the-job training.

Certain aspects of the program have been adapted for this study to focus on specific issues related to autism, separate from other developmental difficulties.

Of the 14 participants enrolled in the program, all of them have maintained employment over the two years of the study. 

None of the students who did not enroll in the program maintained employment over the two years.

The authors conclude that this is early evidence that Project SEARCH can be successfully adapted for autism.

When more participants have completed the program in this study, more detailed information will be available about how effective this program truly is for teens with autism.

Project SEARCH is a program that is funded by state and local agencies to pay for the program’s teachers and curriculum. The curriculum is designed to begin in the last year of high school. More information about this program can be found at:

Carr’s study was presented on May 17 at the International Meeting on Autism Research in Toronto Canada. Authors on this study report no financial affiliations.

The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, which means other scientists may not have had a chance to review the methods and data to ensure it passes their quality standards.

Review Date: 
May 25, 2012