Why Work-Based Learning Experiences Are Important for Youth with Autism
Work-based learning experiences are a significant predictor of success in adulthood, according to research focused on the transition to adulthood for students with disabilities.
We’ll share what exactly work-based learning experiences are, why they’re important (especially in high school and college), and what you can do next.
The recent estimate of ASD diagnosis is 1 in 58 children (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 208).
The number of adolescents approaching adulthood is also increasing.
Every year, 500,000 teens on the autism spectrum are turning 18 years old.
We also know that adulthood outcomes leave a lot to desire for our adults.
In light of this information, research has focused on preparation in high school.
Some literature has identified significant predictors of positive adulthood outcomes.
One of these predictors is work-based learning experiences.
Work-based learning experiences are planned opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities to gain work experience while they are in school.
WHY ARE WORK-BASED LEARNING EXPERIENCES IMPORTANT?
Overall, amongst other transition practices, work-based learning experiences are one of few practices that have limited research with people on the autism spectrum.
I’ll give my plug here for more research needed in this area!
And these experiences have been applied across a variety of settings with people with and without disabilities to great success.
And still, I think of work-based learning experiences as a potential pathway for youth on the autism spectrum to gain beneficial work experience before going out on the job market after high school and college.
Having this experience, increases their likelihood of getting and maintaining a job they like in an area they are interested in.
WHAT ARE THE WORK-BASED LEARNING EXPERIENCES
There are 8 identified work-based learning experiences:
Complete career interest questionnaires
Learn about jobs and required skills
Visit and meet with employers and people employed in that occupation
Spend extended time in a workplace accompanying an employee in the daily duties of their occupation
Spend meaningful time in a workplace to learn aspects of different job tasks
More application of soft skills required in that workplace
Hands-on volunteer service to the community
Integrates with course objectives from a structured program
Learning process organized to provide time for self-reflection and demonstration of knowledge and skills required
Formal assignment and arrangement to complete specific tasks in a workplace over a predetermined amount of time
Paid or unpaid
May have a job in a company or customized work assignments
May be completing course objectives if arranged in connection to a program
Formal sanctioned work experiences
Learn specific occupational skills related to a standardized trade (e.g., welding, carpentry)
Paired with a person as support and guide
Can seek career and academic guidance
WHAT CAN I DO NEXT?
Look into more of these work-based learning experiences with your student or child on the autism spectrum and determine which one you are interested in trying out.
Think of the work-based learning experiences as a progression from the least intensive time commitment to the most.
If you’re just starting out and don’t know what career interest is a good fit, I’d recommend starting with career exploration activities.
If you’re a little more certain of the route, you may want to pursue internships to gain more experience on the job and connections to others in that field.