he study from Vanderbilt University and University of Wisconsin-Madison followed 153 adults with autism, with an average age of 30 years old. Data was collected at two different time periods, with a 5.5 year separation. Results showed that the adults who had greater vocational independence and engagement demonstrated improvements in their symptoms, including restricted interests, repetitive behaviors, communication impairments, and difficulties with social interaction.
Lead researcher Julie Lounds Taylor, Phd., assistant professor of Pediatrics and Special Education and Vanderbilt Kennedy investigator, says,
“We found that if you put the person with autism in a more independent vocational placement, this led to measureable improvements in their behaviors and daily living skills overall. One core value in the disability community and at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is placing people with disabilities in the most inclusive environments possible.“In addition, this study gives us evidence that increasing the level of independence in an employment or vocational setting can lead to improvements in autism symptoms and other associated behaviors.”
This study offers preliminary evidence that employment may be therapeutic for adults with autism. Many work environments offer opportunities for individuals to participate in social and cognitive challenges, which can build skills, create connections with others, and enhance self-esteem.