Outlines a potential new program that would help youth with autism cross the gap from secondary education to further education or employment and includes data collection tools that could be used to evaluate such a program.

The resource lays out the design for a new intervention, the INVEST program, that would help youth (14-21) with mid to high functioning autism spectrum disorder move from secondary education to post-secondary education or employment. It illustrates the three components that would make up the program:

  • Skill Development: “In order to develop necessary skills in the areas of social interaction/conversational norms, motivation, problem solving, and executive functioning,” INVEST students will participate in classroom instruction focused on the skills that have been found challenging for those with autism. Classes will be taught in a college classroom by a special education teacher.
  • Employment Exploration Placements: This component calls for “placements [to] take place on the university campus or in the campus of the university medical center, in a variety of employment settings dependent on the student’s choice” (p.11).
  • Mentors/Job Coaches: “Each INVEST student will be matched up with a university senior-level undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral student mentor who is passionate about working with individuals with special health care needs…and who has undergone autism awareness training provided by The INVEST Program. This mentor will act as the INVEST student’s job coach for a minimum of one school year. By drawing upon the use of role models and mentors as job coaches, the program will hopefully further empower and [strengthen the individual’s drive to obtain employment and/or post-secondary education” (p.13).

In addition to detailing the intervention, the resource provides data collection tools that can be used to evaluate INVEST over a period of six years. These include tests for outcomes such as increased youth confidence in ability to obtain and maintain employment. (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full publication title: The INVEST Program: An Education to Employment/Post-Secondary Education Transition Program for Students with Mid to High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder

Major Findings & Recommendations

The resource emphasizes the importance of a new model to help autistic youth to transition to adulthood, noting that “students need schools and adult service providers to begin a collaborative autism-focused transition model to prepare students with mid to high-functioning autism spectrum disorder for competitive employment and post-secondary education” (p.33). “Studies have shown competitive employment rates of individuals with ASD [Autism spectrum disorder] ranging between 6%-10%. Contributing factors to these low employment rates include ineffective and inappropriate transition planning for students with ASD, as well as poor collaboration between education, employment, and community agencies. Therefore, a need has been identified, by both literature and professionals, to begin a collaborative autism-focused transition model to prepare students with mid to high-functioning autism spectrum disorder for competitive employment and post-secondary education. The INVEST program provides micro, mezzo, and macro levels of intervention in order to address identified improvement areas for future transition service development including early intervention, motivation, school and adult service collaboration, multi-system transition planning collaboration, and autism awareness training” (p.2). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)