Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)

Department

Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

LaVonne Fox

Keywords

Adult; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Life Change Events; Occupational Therapy -- methods; School-to-work transition

Abstract

Background: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are one of the most prevalent childhood diagnoses, occurring in every 1 in 68 children (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Although ASDs are considered childhood disorders, they persist throughout one’s life and are often more pronounced during common life transitions. For adults with ASDs, this is a time marked by fragmented services, as well as disengagement from services (Baldwin, Costley, & Warren, 2014; Friedman, Warfield, & Parish, 2013; Shattuck, Wagner, Narendorg, Sterzing, & Hensley, 2011; Strickland, Coles, & Southern, 2013). Those with ASDs have skills deemed valuable by employers that include being: reliable, punctual, efficient, and detail-oriented (Howlin, 1997). Often those with ASDs struggle in areas that require soft skills due to their decreased social interaction and communication skills (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). In addition to these soft skills, it is necessary that adults with ASDs have the technical skills and lasting supports to be meaningfully engaged in a work environment (Nicholas, Attridge, Zwaigenbaum, & Clarke, 2015). Currently, literature is limited in regards to occupational therapy’s role in the postsecondary school-to-work transition for adults with ASDs.

Purpose: The purpose of this scholarly project was to develop a post-secondary school-to-work transitional program for adults with ASDs to assist occupational therapists in providing interventions to this population. The objective of the overall program is for individual members to gain and maintain employment in order to increase quality of life.

Methods: The developers of this program reviewed the literature to determine: (1) current transition programs; (2) factors that affect the transition from school-to-work; (3) skills, tools, and supports needed to develop a transition program; and (4) best practice principles for transition service delivery.

Conclusion: The results of this aforementioned literature review led to the development of The Post- Secondary School-to-Work Transitional Program: An Occupational Therapist’s Guide to Service Delivery. This program serves as a resource to provide the work skills and tools needed for the transition into employment and ongoing supports beneficial for maintaining employment. The program was designed to provide occupational therapists with individual and group sessions that address the skills, with emphasis on soft skills, needed to overcome the aspects associated with gaining and maintaining employment in order to have success in the workplace. There are two sessions that solely address soft skills, but the group setting facilitates acquisition and utilization of these skills with peers, even when the session is focused on technical skills. The structure and objectives of the sessions address the employment process holistically while providing an environment that promotes social interaction and communication skills to best meet the needs of this specific population.

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