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Supportive employment practices: perspectives of autistic employees

Darren Hedley (School of Psychology and Public Health, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University – Melbourne Campus, Melbourne, Australia)
Jennifer R. Spoor (Department of Management, Sport and Tourism, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia)
Ru Ying Cai (Autism Spectrum Australia, Flemington, Australia)
Mirko Uljarevic (Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)
Simon Bury (School of Psychology and Public Health, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University – Melbourne Campus, Melbourne, Australia)
Eynat Gal (University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel)
Simon Moss (Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia)
Amanda Richdale (School of Psychology and Public Health, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University – Melbourne Campus, Melbourne, Australia)
Timothy Bartram (School of Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Cheryl Dissanayake (School of Psychology and Public Health, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University – Melbourne Campus, Melbourne, Australia)

Advances in Autism

ISSN: 2056-3868

Article publication date: 11 February 2021

Issue publication date: 11 February 2021

792

Abstract

Purpose

Employment can make an important contribution to individual well-being, for example, by providing people with a sense of purpose; however, autistic individuals face significant barriers to entering the workforce. This is reflected in high levels of underemployment and unemployment, with an estimated 80% of autistic people unemployed worldwide. This is higher than both other disability groups and people without disabilities. Research is needed to identify strategies that facilitate the sustained employment of autistic adults. This study aims to examine the perspectives of autistic individuals participating in a specialized employment program within the information and communication technology sector.

Design/methodology/approach

Three focus groups were conducted with nine adults on the autism spectrum. Data were analyzed using an inductive approach according to established guidelines, which included coding and categorizing data into themes.

Findings

Focus group analysis revealed four themes: trainees’ previous work experiences; expectations of the employment program; recruitment and selection processes; and training and transition. Several factors associated with the changes to the recruitment and selection process were found to benefit the autistic employees.

Originality/value

Few studies have characterized the work experiences of adults on the autism spectrum. Tailored employment processes that challenge traditional human resource management practices can increase the participation of autistic individuals in the workforce. Strategies for promoting the success of these programs are discussed.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge Cathryn Masters for her help with the focus groups. We thank the staff from the Australian Government Department of Human Services and DXC Technology for their assistance in this study. The authors would especially like to thank all the participants who generously shared their experiences and insights. This study was generously funded by DXC Technology and the Australian Government Department of Human Services.Conflict of interest statement: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: D.H. received research funding from DXC Technology, the Australian Government Department of Human Services, the Australian Government Department of Defence and the ANZ Bank. S.M.B. received research funding from DXC Technology and the ANZ Bank. The author(s) declare no further potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Citation

Hedley, D., Spoor, J.R., Cai, R.Y., Uljarevic, M., Bury, S., Gal, E., Moss, S., Richdale, A., Bartram, T. and Dissanayake, C. (2021), "Supportive employment practices: perspectives of autistic employees", Advances in Autism, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 28-40. https://doi.org/10.1108/AIA-09-2019-0029

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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