Announcement of Ed.D. Dissertation Defense Jenna Zatz: “Life Skills and Employment Outcomes for Individuals With ASD”

12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a pervasive developmental disability with a rising prevalence rate. Literature reveals that individuals with ASD often lack independence in life skills and are consistently underrepresented in employment. This mixed-methods study elicited the perspectives of and experiences in life skills education and employment outcomes of adults with ASD and their parents. The current study was framed within Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI), Behaviorism, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), and literature-based theoretical components surrounding life skills instruction. Surveys and interviews were modeled after the NTLS-2 and were administered to adults with ASD as well as their parents. Semi-structured interviews expanded upon survey questions to give voice to individuals with ASD and their parents. Surveys and interviews explored life skills educational experiences in K-12 education and the association with employment status.

Survey results were analyzed with chi-square analysis and Cramer’s V was calculated to measure the effect. Interviews were inductively and deductively coded to establish themes. Results from this study indicated that job sites and practice of specific skills including household chores and pre-employment skills were beneficial aspects of life skills instruction and were linked to successful employment following high school graduation. Results also revealed many shortcomings, including a need for more practice in social skills, more time spent practicing specific skills, more communication between parents and teachers, and a need for more individualized programming in K-12 life skills education. Results also suggested parent dissatisfaction with the NJ State System, specifically the Division of Developmental Disabilities.

Findings from this study also provided insight as to which components are necessary to incorporate in K-12 life skills instruction to promote the most successful post-secondary outcome leading to employment. Finally, implications and recommendations for restructuring life skills programs and curricula are provided. Most importantly, the findings of this study give voice to a group of individuals that is usually neglected.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, life skills, adults with autism, employment, life skills instruction, special education, job sites

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