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Social Skills at Work


Employment statistics predict a crushing 80%+ rate of un- and underemployment for ASD adults. This number has not budged in years. People with high functioning Autism have the highest rate of unemployment among all individuals with developmental disabilities.

This statistic suggests that professionals are not approaching this issue effectively, because I know that a lot of competent professionals are wrestling with this 80%+ rate. A recent study (Bross, et. al., 2019) suggests it's time to start looking at training ASD individuals to perform certain social skills within jobs. This study also criticized the traditional approach of directing high functioning ASD individuals toward monotonous jobs (because of the myth that ASD people love boring routines), away from jobs that require social interaction (like retail or customer service), and essentially attempt to eliminate any job that might depend heavily on an area of functioning where the traditional ASD individual is deficient (like social skills). I have referred to this reasoning as the "accommodation approach" in the past, and it is fatally flawed for at least two reasons: 1. it kicks the can down the road, and 2. it assumes the ASD individual cannot learn certain skills.

The study suggests one can use video modeling to improve customer service skills of a high functioning ASD person at a discount retail store, and this is exactly what happened. This is what we call a single-subject design, and thus limited conclusions can be made from it, but I do want to stress that the intervention was helpful and fairly simple to do. And, we're not making a lot of headway on the 80%+ figure, so professionals really need to keep an open mind moving forward and pursue all reasonable interventions.

Article: Video Modeling to Improve Customer Service Skills of an Employed Young Adult with Autism. By Bross, Travers, Munandar, and Morningstar. In Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disorders, December 2019.


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© 2020 by Andrew Schlegelmilch