Erin Harmuth & Emy Silletta

Towards a Model of Employment Support for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Authors: Erin Harmuth, Emy Silletta, Dr. Anthony Bailey, Charlotte Beck & Dr. Skye Barbic

Introduction. Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have a range of cognitive difficulties and behaviors that impair participation in meaningful activities. In particular, unemployment rates for adults with ASD are very high (Scott, Falkmer, Girdler, & Falkmer, 2015), which has negative consequences for mental and physical health. Information about the facilitators and barriers to employment for this population is scarce. Objectives. To (a) identify employment barriers and facilitators for adults with ASD in the existing literature, and (b) use these data to inform the creation of an intake questionnaire for supportive employment services. Methods. A scoping review of the literature was conducted that followed Arskey and O’Malley’s framework and spanned 7 databases: ABI/Inform, CINAHL, Cochrane Review, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PubMed, and PsycINFO (searched 08/22/16 to 08/25/16). A thematic analysis of the collected data informed the creation of an intake questionnaire to help support adults with ASD to find successful employment. The questionnaire will then be critiqued by several patient research partners (community-based adults living with ASD who have performed employment-related activities). Results. The scoping review identified the breadth and gaps in current ASD and employment literature, while the data analysis provided rich data about existing themes. When patient research partner input is added, the questionnaire will reflect both current research and first-person perceptions. Conclusions. The data from this study will inform the public of barriers and facilitators to employment for adults with ASD, and the questionnaire will enable Occupational Therapists, among other stakeholders, to play a key role in supporting engagement and access to meaningful employment opportunities for this population.


Arksey, H. & O’Malley, L. (2005) Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19-32.

Scott, M., Falkmer, M., Girdler, S., & Falkmer, T. (2015). Viewpoints on factors for successful employment for adults with autism spectrum disorder. PLoS ONE [Electronic Resource], 10(10), e0139281. doi: