Research Article

Article Details

Citation:  Bross, L.A., Huffman, J.M., & Hagiwara, M. (2022). Examining the special interest areas of autistic adults with a focus on their employment and mental health outcomes. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 57 (3), 289-305.
Title:  Examining the special interest areas of autistic adults with a focus on their employment and mental health outcomes
Authors:  Bross, L.A., Huffman, J.M., & Hagiwara, M.
Year:  2022
Journal/Publication:  Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Publisher:  IOS Press
DOI:  https://doi.org/10.3233/JVR-221218
Full text:  https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-vocational-rehabil...    |   PDF   
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  No

Structured abstract:

Background:  Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have special interest areas (SIAs) which are characterized by significant depth and breadth of knowledge in a particular topic. These interests can continue through adulthood.
Purpose:  We conducted this study to develop a better understanding of the relation between SIAs and employment and mental health outcomes of adults with ASD.
Data collection and analysis:  Qualitative and quantitative analyses were used to examine the data with an emphasis on bringing autistic voices to the forefront of the discussion. Seventy-two adults with ASD, ages 18–53, completed an online survey describing their SIA engagement, employment status, and current mental health measured by two standardized assessments. Respondents provided open-ended responses describing their SIA and beliefs regarding SIAs broadly.
Findings:  Open-ended responses indicated adults with ASD have highly diverse SIAs that are rarely utilized in their employment experiences. Hierarchical regressions revealed SIA-related bullying was associated with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. SIA employment was associated with depression such that those who were not currently employed in their SIA reported higher levels of depression. Respondents without support from people in their life related to their SIA reported higher levels of stress.
Conclusions:  SIAs are extremely important in the lives of autistic adults and should be utilized to enhance their employment experiences and overall well-being. Family members, adult service providers, and educational professionals should support and encourage SIAs.

Disabilities served:  Anxiety disorder
Autism / ASD
Depression
Outcomes:  Employment acquisition
Full-time employment