Supported Employment and Autism Ranking: Limited positive evidence

Current Research

We have identified 18 studies of supported employment programmes for autistic people published in English-speaking, peer-reviewed journals.

The studies had more than 400 adults and all but one reported positive benefits. The positive benefits included lengthy periods of continuous employment, income generated through employment (salary), a decrease in claims on the state (benefits), improved communication and social skills, increased independence etc.
Many of the studies reported on the efficacy or otherwise of specific supported employment programmes. For example
  • Mawhood and Howlin (1999) and Howlin et al (2005) reported on the Prospects supported employment programme run by the National Autistic Society in the UK
  • Lynas (2014) reported on Project ABLE, run by the Orchardville Society in Belfast, UK.
  • Keel et al (1997) reported on the TEACCH-supported employment programme run by TEACCH in North Carolina, USA.
  • McLaren et al (epub) reported on the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model, run by the Dartmouth IPS Supported Employment Center in New Hampshire, USA.
  • Various studies inc. including Ham et al (2014); Scahall et al (2015); Wehman et al (2016) reported on the Project Search (plus ASD Supports) run by Business Connections in Virginia.
Two of the studies (Garcia-Villamisar, Wehman and Navarro, 2002; Garcia-Villamisar and Hughes, 2007) were longitudinal follow-up studies of a previous study (Garcia-Villamisar, Ross and Wehman, 2000) and compared the efficacy of a supported employment programme against a sheltered employment programme over a five year period. These studies reported that the autistic people who participated in the supported employment programme eventually improved their quality of life level in a very meaningful way whereas those who participated in the sheltered employment programme did not.
Please note: There were a number of studies that we did not include. For example,
  • We identified a number of studies which looked at some of the components of supported employment programmes (such as job training, audio coaching etc.) but were not complete programmes
  • We identified a number of studies which were retrospective reviews of large vocational datasets which reported that supported employment was beneficial to autistic adults.
17 Jun 2022
Last Review
01 Aug 2017
Next Review
01 Oct 2023