Update on Employment Success in Young Adults with Autism
Autistic children as they grow into adults continue to have difficulties finding and keeping employment.
Allopregnanolone (ALLO) a hormone made by the placenta late in pregnancy is such a potent neurosteroid that disrupting its steady stream to the developing baby can leave it vulnerable to brain injuries associated with autism spectrum disorder. In order to more effectively treat vulnerable babies, the research team first had to determine what was going wrong in the dance that is pregnancy. According to the CDC, one in ten babies is born before 37 weeks gestation. The placenta delivers ALLO a progesterone derivative, needed rood ready to help the developing fetal brain for life outside the womb.
The researcher’s model demonstrates that losing this influence alters brain matter development, especially white brain matter. Cerebellar white matter develops after babies are born so their ability to connect the change in placental function during pregnancy with lingering impacts on later brain development is huge. The researchers identified long-term cerebellar white matter alterations. This is the area that is essential for motor coordination, posture balance, and social cognition. Further research could lead to finding new targets to a potential for earlier treatment for high-risk babies (CNHS, 2019).
Factors Impacting Employment
ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition with adult outcome studies showing that few individuals with ASD live independently, have social relationships or are employed experiencing poor mental health and overall quality of life. And while there are those individuals with ASD who are able to be employed long-term, live independently this just illustrates the variability in personal factors such as IQ (intelligence quotient), language abilities, comorbid conditions, environmental factors including family support, access to interventions and availability of support services. In the life area of work and employment, the hallmark impairments of ASD is exposed in difficulty mastering the job application process, remembering and following instructions, interacting and communicating effectively with co-workers and integrating into the workplace environment.
Low levels of employment of these individuals are influenced by environmental factors such as employers attitudes and concerns over real and perceived barriers to employing these individuals. Some of these concerns include accommodation costs, additional supervision needs, sick leave, and concern in relation to productivity (Scott et al, 2018).
Daytime activities of people with ASD, in terms of occupation or education, is very important regardless of their level of functioning and parents of young adults with ASD diagnosis in childhood provided information about current daytime activity of their child, as well as behavioral characteristics, comorbidity, history of school-primary and secondary and availability of support. Rates are difficult to compare to earlier and current research due to not only a change in the concept of ASD over the years but also a shift inability to find employment and keeping it in today’s job market is hard for these individuals.
For people with ASD, their behavior can be very off-putting and lead to misunderstanding with other workers. In addition, most adolescents with ASD, when compared to adolescents with speech, language, learning disability, and intellectual disability (ID) have the highest rate of no regular activity in the period after school. Looking at employment, ASD outcome studies, IQ was found to be connected with occupation; however many studies that there is no correlation between IQ and a better outcome. One of the results of this study was that with ASD without regular daytime activity had no participation in educational programs or occupational activities (Knüpple et al, 2019).
Barriers Faced by Adults with ASD
Employment is a significant factor contributing to the quality of life for adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Currently little is known about the best ways to support adults with ASD to secure and maintain employment. Numerous studies have shown the unemployment rate of adults with ASD is 66%. ASD is described as persistent deficits in social communication and social interactions across multiple contexts. It is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that usually arises due to complex genetic predisposition. In developing countries, the detection rate varies between 0.8 and 23.6 in 1000 individuals. Because of this there exist large numbers of afflicted young adults trying to secure employment that have persistent deficits in social communication, repetitive patterns of behaviors, varying degrees of adaptive functioning and co-occurring mental health and medical concerns.
Much of the current research indicates significant gaps in understanding the daily challenges that prevent those with ASD from maintaining meaningful employment. For the study, the researchers used the umbrella heading of ASD in the same fashion as the DSM-V. This is the current edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders last updated in 2013. This study found that ASD adults are paid less than their neurotypical employees, fewer hours and rarely achieve full-time status. Barriers pointed out in the literature include communication and social difficulties are reasons ASD people have such difficulty finding and maintaining employment. This was particularly true with communication with fellow employees and supervisors. In addition, they have difficulties if they are exhibiting increased ASD symptoms on job site including disruptive behavioral characteristics like a restrictive and repetitive behavior, as well as sensitivity to sensory stimuli and strong resistance to change.
Also decreased executive functioning skills and mental health issues and diagnosed mental health conditions. There is research looking at the ability to fit a job with the individual. This includes task demands, social requirements with corresponding employment. Sensory needs as well as items like poor personal hygiene, physical health issues (asthma, intolerance to heat), cognitive decreased executive function skills, difficulty following directions, self-identity (low self-esteem). Neurobehavioral (more severe communication (social difficulties), psychological (mental health challenges, resistance to change), and preferred sensory stimuli level.
One of the limitations of the study noted were the terms “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” were not concretely defined in the literature this group analyzed and the ages covered were from 15 to 35 so the literature did not take into account experience of older individuals or those who were diagnosed later in life. Attention needs to be focused on customized long-term support and accommodations (Harmuth et al, 2018).
More than a quarter of children with ASD are also diagnosed with disruptive behavior disorders. Yale researchers have identified a possible cause: a key mechanism that regulates emotion functions differently in the brain of children with disruptive behavior. The researchers have also have found a potential biological cause: mechanisms in the brain that regulates emotions function differently in children with disruptive behavior something frequently seen with those that have ASD.
Disruptive behavior such as aggression, irritability, and noncompliance are commonly seen with children with ASD. Their study found that the connection between the amygdala and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex-a pathway critical to the regulation of emotion. This finding points toward the mechanism of emotional dysregulation in individuals with ASD and pointed out potential biomarkers for developing targeted treatments of irritability and aggression in autism (Yale University, 2019).
When working in a well organized supported environment that is conducive to success autistic employees can flourish and be an asset in the workplace. However for this to happen potential employers need to know the kinds of adjustments that are needed for autistics to reach their potential. Preparation for employment should start with high school. Autistic people don’t usually have good quality work experience. Interviews can create barriers and work trials often make more sense. Employment is an important facet of social inclusion. And autistics, even those with intellectual impairments, have much to offer as employees. Unfortunately, this is not the case for autistics in America. Autistics people with the capacity for verbal language are probably in a better place than those who don’t. whatever mode is involved in the process of decision making has to be based on access to a range of experiences that would enable an individual to make realistic choices (Martin et al, 2019).
Children’s National Health Service. (2019). Placental function linked to brain injuries associated with autism. Children’s National Health Service.
Harmuth, E. et al. (2018). Barriers and facilitators to employment for adults with autism: A scoping review. Annals of International Occupational Therapy, 1(1).
Knüppel, A. et al. (2019). Characteristics of young adults with ASD performing different daytime activities. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49(2).
Martin, N. et al. (2019). Identifying and addressing barriers to employment of autistic adults. Journal of Inclusive Practice in Further and Higher Education, 10(1).
Scott, M. et al. (2018). Factors impacting employment for people with autism spectrum disorder: A scoping review. Autism. Sage Pub.
Yale University (2019). Behavioral disorders in kids with autism linked to reduce brain connectivity. Yale University.