Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month

April is Autism Awareness Month, sponsored by the Autism Society, and Autism Acceptance Month, sponsored by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN). The two campaigns have common messages of inclusion and self-determination across the lifespan. Inclusion means having the opportunity to learn, play, work, and live alongside peers of all abilities. Self-determination means being able to make choices and decisions based on one’s own preferences and interests.

How does research support these two messages? ASAD defines autism spectrum disorders (ASD) as a neurological variation that occurs in about 1% of the population and is classified as a developmental disability. Researchers conduct studies to understand the needs of people with ASD and their families and to develop programs and policies to meet those needs. These include supports for young children, their parents, and teachers; for young people as they move through school and into the workforce; and for adults who are establishing or continuing careers, forming personal relationships, and establishing families of their own. Several NIDILRR-funded projects are currently conducting research in this area:

Children and parents

The Online and Applied Systems for Intervention Skills (OASIS) parent training program teaches parents of children with ASD how to address behavioral challenges and support their children in their social and behavioral development. The current project focuses on bringing OASIS to more families through the health care system.

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Family Support has a project to test a parent training program for Latino families of children with ASD. This project aims to address a gap in information about ASD and parenting interventions for Spanish-speaking families.

Our Research In Focus series highlighted research in this area:

Changes in Policy May Mean Better Access to Interventions for Children with ASD (May 2016)

Youth and young adults

I-CONNECT PLUS: Enhancing Community Participation for Adolescents and Adults with ASD Using Online Instruction, Coaching, and Accessible Self-Management Technologies teaches social competence, problem-solving skills, and self-monitoring/organizations skills to young people with ASD. This remote, tele-coaching approach to promote independence and full-engagement across settings.

Effects of Customized Employment on the Employment Outcomes of Transition-Age Youth with Disabilities compares customized employment to usual vocational rehabilitation supports for youth transitioning from school to work, including young people with ASD. Customized employment is a flexible process designed to personalize the employment relationship between a job candidate and an employer in a way that meets the needs of both.

Our Research In Focus series also highlighted research in this area

The Right Supports Can Improve Opportunities for Job Seekers with Autism Spectrum Disorders (April 2016)

A Comprehensive Job Development Program May Help Youth with ASD Make the Successful Transition from School to Work (August 2017)

Adults

The Center on Knowledge Translation for Employment Research supports a technical working group focusing on employment of adults with ASD. Their 2017 Technical Brief #8 discussed focus group findings from vocational rehabilitation staff and adults with ASD on improving counseling services.

These are just a few of the current projects focusing on ASD. To learn more about NIDILRR-funded research in this area, visit the NIDILRR Program Database. For research literature on the topic of autism, please visit the REHABDATA database.

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