Vocational Rehabilitation Service Use Among Youth and Young Adults with Autism: Comparing Students and Non-Students

Friday, May 13, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
J. Rast1, P. Shattuck2 and K. A. Anderson1, (1)A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Philadelphia, PA, (2)A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Background:  Vocational rehabilitation (VR) provides a wide array of services (such as rehabilitation counseling, job skills training and job placement) to help facilitate employment among people with disabilities, including those with autism. Studies suggest that an individual’s probability of employment varies by the types of VR services he/she receives. The types of services that a client receives through VR may differ between individuals who are and are not enrolled in school.  Because the use of specific services during VR is known to be associated with an employment outcome, studying the pattern of service use in different types of users is important.  Understanding patterns of service use may lead to a better understanding of the interaction of the VR system with different groups of VR users.  

Objectives: We aim to identify service use patterns in VR users with autism, classifying separately those who enter VR as high school students, other students, and non-students.  

Methods: Data came from the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) 911 database which contains records for cases closed by state VR agencies. We analyzed data for 8531 clients with autism under the age of 25 who received services and had a case closed in 2013. We used latent class analysis to identify classes of individuals with autism with differing service use patterns, separating high school students, other students, and non-students at the time of VR application.   

Results: Half of clients with autism under the age of 25 apply for VR while they are a student and of those, almost 75% are high school students.  Among students, there are four clear types of VR service users:  light users who receive one or two services, light users who receive mostly VR counseling and one or two other services, medium users who receive VR counseling and practical job assistance (such as placement and supports), and heavy users that often receive five or more services.  The main difference between high school students and other students is that high school students more often receive information and referral services than other students.  There are more differences in service use patterns between students and non-students.  Non-students fall into three classes of users which share general characteristics of student users:  light users who use one to three services, users who receive few services but do get VR counseling, and heavy users who receive five or more services.

Conclusions: The different patterns of service use between high school students, other students, and non-students may be linked to practices in place for different types of applicants.  However, the variability within a single group may be related to differing levels of need or levels of unmet need in some of the users.  In addition to seeing the variability in type and number of services provided, the presence of a pattern of light service use in all three groups suggests there is room for intervention to improve VR provision for all clients.