WEDNESDAY, July 31 (HealthDay News) -- Intensive job training helps young people with autism get work, a small new study found.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can range from mild to severe, affecting social and communication skills. About 80 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds with an autism spectrum disorder are unemployed after leaving school, according to the researchers.
But in a study of 40 young people with autism, the employment rate was 87 percent among the 24 participants who completed nine months of intensive internship training at hospitals as part of a program called "Project SEARCH with Autism Supports."
The jobs in areas such as cardiac care, wellness, ambulatory surgery and pediatric intensive care units are not typically considered for people with disabilities. The study participants worked 20 to 40 hours a week and were paid 24 percent more than the minimum wage.
The participants required less intense support as they became more competent at their work tasks, according to the findings published online in the July Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
"This is the first study of its kind to demonstrate the skills and abilities youth with [autism spectrum disorders] have and the success they can experience at work," principal investigator Paul Wehman, a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and director of the autism center at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education, said in a journal news release.
"Previous research in this area showed that youth with [autism spectrum disorders] were employed at lower rates than even their peers with other disabilities," he noted.
"Getting a job is the central accomplishment in life for all 20-year-olds," study co-investigator Carol Schall, director of technical assistance for the VCU autism center and Virginia Autism Resource Center, said in the news release.
"For far too long, youth with [autism spectrum disorders] have been left out of that elated feeling that adults have when they get their first real employment. Through this study, we were able to demonstrate that youth with [autism] can be successful employees," Schall said.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism.