Date: 28 Sep 2013

Toward the development of a supported employment program for individuals with high-functioning autism in Germany

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Abstract

Human–human interactions are of central relevance for the success in professional and occupational environments, which also substantially influence quality of life. This is especially true in the case of individuals with high-functioning autism (HFA), who experience deficits in social cognition that often lead to social exclusion and unemployment. Despite good education and high motivation, individuals with HFA do not reach employment rates that are substantially higher than 50 %. This is an alarmingly high rate of unemployment considering that the United Nations have recently emphasized the inclusion of handicapped persons as a mandatory human right. To date, the specific needs of autistic persons with respect to their working environment are largely unexplored. It remains moreover an open question how support systems and activities, including newly developed communication devices for professional environments of individuals with HFA, should look like. The German health and social care systems are not adequately prepared for the proper support of this population. This leads us to suggest that supported employment programs should be developed for adults with HFA that specifically address their needs and requirements. Such programs should comprise (1) the adequate assessment of HFA, including a neuropsychological profile and an individual matching of persons’ preferences with requirements of the working place, (2) on-the-job coaching activities that include systematic communication and interaction training, and (3) instruction of non-autistic peers, including colleagues and supervisors, about weaknesses and strengths of HFA.