Working to employ young adults with autism

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The Assistive Soft Skills and Employment Training program, or ASSET, teaches young adults with autism the skills needed to get and keep jobs as they transition from high school and college to adulthood.

“Young adults with autism deserve the opportunity to be taught work-related social skills so they can be successful and live fulfilling, happy lives,” said Connie Sung, who helped develop the program.

Every year approximately 50,000 of these “transition youth” become ready to enter the workplace and gain independence and self-esteem that comes from successfully holding down a job.

However, in a study published in the journal Autism, Sung cites that 90 percent of those with disabilities lose their jobs due to the lack of soft skills. This is because most training focuses on interacting with school peers and family, but not the workplace.

The program covers work-related soft skills like communication, attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving, and professionalism.

A second paper, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, had participants try eight weeks of the training program and at the end of the period, the young adults showed significant improvements in social cognition, social function and social confidence.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Autism Research Program, Sung and her colleagues plan to expand the program.  

“Based upon these positive improvements, we believe ASSET can help others with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those transitioning from the criminal justice system back into society,” said Sung.

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