ILR School

Empowering Neurodiverse Populations for Employment through Inclusion AI and Innovation Science (B-6970) (Raise C-Access Phase 1 Grant Final Report

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The unemployment and underemployment of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been well documented, and traditional approaches to the interview process identified as one area that poses multiple barriers that disadvantage qualified candidates with autism. This report summarizes research conducted by researchers from the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University, in partnership with the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University, examined employment experiences from the perspective of Autistic people, employers, service providers, and educational institution representatives who work with people with autism. The goal of the research is to explore and depict insights into factors that influence the interview process and job success. This study is part of a series of studies that is part of an NSF C-Accel study to Vanderbilt University entitled Empowering Neurodiverse Populations for Employment. The current study included semi-structured individual and focus group interviews with employers with autism affirmative hiring programs, community employment service providers, and educational representatives (career counselors) who have experience of hiring and working with individuals with ASD people on employment, as well as ASD people. A total of 23 individuals participated in the study through group or individual interviews. Content analysis, triangulation, inter-rater tests were performed to captures the themes and agreement of the findings. The findings suggest that employers, Autistic individuals, and service providers are consistent in experiencing challenges and opportunities that influence the interview and employment experience of Autistic individuals, although from different perspectives. Particularly, ASD people have interview preparation and support, and that employers demonstrate knowledge of neurodiversity and willingness to alter the traditional interview process aids the interview and job success. Employers that we interviewed were all involved in autism hiring programs. Therefore, their responses often highlight the utilization of strategies that minimize challenges that are often reported by Autistic individuals during interviews. While these organizations are more cognizant of the needs of Autistic applicants/employees, the employers' comments suggest that many managers continue to need support even after autism awareness training. Their comments also underline a potential issue; that is, human resource (HR) professionals or managers who know the needs of Autistic applicants may not always be present to support these applicants or to influence the hiring decision.

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A report from the work of the Track B-1 (AI and Future Jobs) Empowering Neurodiverse Populations for Employment through National Science Foundation (NSF) Inclusion AI and Innovation Science (B-6970), RAISE C-Accel Phase I Grant funded to Vanderbilt University, Frist Center for Autism and Innovation, Nashville, TN; PTE Federal Award No.: 1936970, Subaward No.; UNIV61108. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, ILR School, K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability.


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Disability; Employment; Vocational Rehabilitation; Youth with Disabilities; autistic; career counselors


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