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Evaluation of the ACE employment programme: helping employers to make tailored adjustments for their autistic employees

Beatriz López (Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Niko Kargas (Department of Psychology, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)
Julie Udell (Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Tomáš Rubín (Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Linda Burgess (Hampshire County Council, Winchester, UK)
Dominic Dew (Portsmouth City Council, Portsmouth, UK)
Ian McDonald (Southampton City Council, Southampton, UK)
Ann O’Brien (Isle of Wight Council, Newport, UK)
Karen Templeton-Mepstead (Autism Hampshire, Fareham, UK)

Advances in Autism

ISSN: 2056-3868

Article publication date: 5 April 2021

Issue publication date: 5 April 2021




The purpose of this study was to explore the views of autistic people, carers and practitioners regarding the barriers autistic employees face at work (Study 1) and to use these views to inform the design of an employment programme for autistic employees without learning disabilities (Study 2).


In Study 1, 16 (20%) carers, 17 (21%) practitioners and 47 (59%) autistic adults who had been or were currently employed, answered a survey regarding barriers at work. Study 2 evaluates the efficacy of a set of profiling assessment tools (PA) developed to help employers make individually-tailored adjustments for their autistic employees by delivering an employment programme consisting of 15, 8-week work placements.


In Study 1, only 25% of autistic adults reported having had adjustments in the workplace and all groups reported this as the main barrier – alongside employers’ lack of understanding. Two sets of results demonstrate the efficacy of the PA tools in addressing this barrier. First, a comparative cost simulation revealed a cost-saving in terms of on-job support of £6.67 per participant per hour worked relative to published data from another programme. Second, 83% of autistic employees reported having had the right adjustments at work.

Research limitations/implications

This is an exploratory study that did not include a comparison group. Hence, it was not possible to evaluate the efficacy of the PA tools relative to a standard employment programme intervention, nor to assess cost reduction, which currently is only estimated from already available published data.

Practical implications

Overall the findings from these studies demonstrate that the time invested in the high-quality assessment of the profile of autistic employees results in saving costs over time and better outcomes.


The originality of the Autism Centre for Employment programme resides in that, unlike other programmes, it shifts the focus from helping autistic employees to helping their employers.



First of all, authors would like to thank the UK Department of Health, for funding Stage 2 of this project via the Autism Innovation fund. Authors would like to give special thanks to all the employers and volunteer mentors (Tony Adams, Jacquie Berger, Grace Cooper, Kristine Edvarsen, Tracey Emery, Jessica Eng, Miguel Tiago Lopes, Annabel Nyemecz and Veronica Price). They would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. And last, but by no means least, thanks to all the autistic people who took part in the work placements. They were the best representation of the qualities autistic people can bring to the workplace.


López, B., Kargas, N., Udell, J., Rubín, T., Burgess, L., Dew, D., McDonald, I., O’Brien, A. and Templeton-Mepstead, K. (2021), "Evaluation of the ACE employment programme: helping employers to make tailored adjustments for their autistic employees", Advances in Autism, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 3-15.



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