Environmental Factors Impacting Work Satisfaction and Performance in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, May 13, 2016: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
B. A. Pfeiffer, Rehabilitation Sciences, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Background: The numbers of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) transitioning into post-secondary roles such as employment has substantially increased in parallel with escalating prevalence rates (CDC, 2014). Unfortunately, 90% of individuals with ASD over the age of 22 cannot find and maintain meaningful employment (Gal, Ben Meir, & Katz, 2013) and there are limited mechanisms to support needed transitional interventions. Many interventions focus on specific deficits in the person, such as communication and socialization difficulties, and its effects on work performance. There are fewer studies attempting to understand the environmental factors influencing the work experience from the perspective of the adult with ASD.  

Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to explore the relationship between environment factors and work satisfaction/performance from the perspective of adults with ASD in order to better understand important outcomes and necessary components of interventions in the workplace. 

Methods: A mixed methods design was used which involved collecting quantitative data through self-report questionnaires and qualitative data through recorded interviews with participants. Participants were individuals over the age of 21 years, diagnosed with ASD who worked at least 10 hours a week. All potential participants completed a demographics questionnaire and the Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale-Revised (RAADS-R). Participants needed to score 65 or higher on the RAADS-R for inclusion in the study. Individuals completed the Job Satisfaction Survey (JSS), Work Environment Scale (WES), and the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile (ASP) (n=50). Sixteen participants completed extensive qualitative interviews. Quantitative data was analyzed using t-tests and correlation coefficients to examine the relationships between work satisfaction and factors in the environment. Qualitative interviews were transcribed, crosschecked, and analyzed by multiple researchers using a constant comparison method until data saturation. Additionally, a reflective comparative analysis was completed between the quantitative and qualitative results.

Results: Quantitative results identified significant differences between participants that were satisfied and not satisfied with their work in how they perceived specific environmental factors including supervisor support (t = 34.26, p = .001) autonomy (t = 38.68, p = .02), task orientation  (t = 33.3, p = .05 ), and physical comfort (t = 39.2, . p = .04). Additionally, adults who reported higher levels of sensory avoiding and/or sensory sensitivity reported significantly lower job satisfaction on the JSS. Qualitative results consistently identified that attitudinal, social and sensory environmental factors impacted on work satisfaction/performance for participants in the study. Specific themes were identified across data sources including the positive or negative impact of supervisory attitude and social demands on satisfaction/performance. The sensory environmental was identified as a barrier if adaptations were not incorporated into the work environment.  

Conclusions: Results of the study identified the need for interventions targeting attitudinal, social, and sensory environmental factors to support individuals with ASD in the workplace. Future research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of these types of interventions.