A Statewide Survey of Public Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors' Perceptions of Consumers With Autism
Type of DegreeThesis
DepartmentRehabilitation and Special Education
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Autism is a lifelong neurological developmental disability that results (to varying degrees) in social, communication, and behavior impairments. Autism is primarily diagnosed in childhood, therefore, a preponderance of the literature and research findings focus on children with autism. Literature and research findings about adults with autism, particularly in regards to the vocational rehabilitation needs of this population, are minimal at best. It can be inferred that the vocational rehabilitation needs of adults with autism have been virtually ignored. The eligibility criteria for vocational rehabilitation services program: (a) the individual has a physical or mental impairment which for such individual constitutes or results in a substantial impediment to employment; (b) the individual can benefit in terms of an employment outcome from vocational rehabilitation services; and (c) the individual requires vocational rehabilitation services to prepare for, secure, retain, or regain employment. Historically, persons with autism have been excluded from vocational rehabilitation services on the pretext that these persons could not benefit in terms of an employment outcome because it was assumed that they were unfit to work. Rehabilitation legislation mandates that individuals with significant disabilities (autism is identified in rehabilitation legislation as a significant disability)be given priority in receipt of vocational rehabilitation services. Although it cannot be determined that persons with autism are underserved in the receipt of vocational rehabilitation services because the size of the pool of potential applicants with autism is unknown, however, in relation to this study, persons with autism have been underserved in the receipt of vocational rehabilitation services in terms of vocational rehabilitation services vocational rehabilitation counselors believed were appropriate for persons with autism and the vocational rehabilitation services they actually provided to consumers with autism. More than half of the participants reported that 85% of the vocational rehabilitation services provided through the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services were appropriate for consumers with autism. Yet, less than half of the participants provided 85% of the vocational rehabilitation services to consumers with autism. In addition, nearly half of the participants of this study (47%) reported that they do not consider themselves knowledgeable about autism. The results of this study indicate that vocational rehabilitation counselors could benefit from professional development in the area of autism in order to be effective in providing the appropriate and necessary vocational rehabilitation services for this ever increasing group of individuals with autism.