A Longitudinal Study of Employment and Educational Instability for Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Principal Investigator: Julie Lounds Taylor, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Investigator: https://vkc.vumc.org/people/taylor-julielounds

Research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; Grant number R01 MH121438) awarded to Dr. Julie Taylor and Dr. Leann DaWalt from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For more information on this study, or to request research participation updates, visit http://vumc.org/transitionslab.

– Hi. My name is Julie Taylor, and I’m an associate professor of pediatrics and a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center investigator at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. And I’m here today to tell you a little bit about our brand-new research study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, that’ll be examining employment and educational stability for adults on the autism spectrum. And we propose this study along with our colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison because we noticed a significant gap in the research literature about how to best support adults on the autism spectrum. A number of studies have found now that employment can be a real challenge for many adults on the autism spectrum. And in the past few years, we’ve learned a lot about how to promote employment and post-secondary educational participation for these adults. But our studies suggest that getting the job or getting into college is really only half the battle. We find that for a lot of adults, once they get that job or get into that college program, successfully maintaining those positions is just as much of a challenge, if not more so. Yet we know almost nothing, at least from the research literature, about how to support adults in successfully maintaining employment or post-secondary education. So that’s what we’re going to investigate. We’re going to recruit a group of autistic adults and their families for the study, and we’re going to follow them closely over three years. We’re going to look at their educational activities, their vocational activities, their work activities. We’re going to measure and look at how those change over the three-year period. And then we’re going to measure a lot of factors that we think might be related to sustained employment. We’re going to look at characteristics of the autistic adults, of their families, of their communities, of the service system. And we’re also going to look at characteristics of the workplace. And this is a part of the study that I’m really excited about. We’re going to be partnering with Dr. Tim Vogus from the Owen School of Management here at Vanderbilt. And he’s been studying workplace climate for a number of years now. We’re going to take the measures that he uses, and we’re going to import those into the study of autism to try to understand if there are certain aspects of the workplace that seem to be associated with successful work experiences for autistic individuals. And we expect that this study is going to help us identify changeable of factors. So factors that we can actually do something about, that we can target in interventions to better support autistic adults, once they have a job or once they get into college to be successful in those positions over time. This is a brand-new study. So right now we are doing all of our preparatory activities. We plan to recruit adults on the autism spectrum and their families at the end of this year. Because of COVID-19, all of our data collection is going to be fully online for now until it’s safe for us to be able to meet with people in-person. If anybody is interested in learning more about the study, or perhaps even interested in learning about participating in the study, you can find a lot more information on our lab website, which is vumc.org/transitionslab. Thank you.
For more information on VKC-affiliated research studies, visit vkc.vumc.org/studyfinder/
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) Research Briefs are a series of 2- to 3-minute videos during which VKC members and investigators share exciting details and promise of new research opportunities in accessible “plain language.”

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