School-To-Work Transition and Asperger Syndrome
School-To-Work Transition and Asperger Syndrome
Kristin K. Higgins
Ph.D., LPC, Certified School Counselor
Paper Authors: K. Higgins, L. Koch, E. Boughfman, C. Vierstra
Holes in the Research/Literature
Asperger Syndrome Overview
Psychosocial Impact of Asperger Syndrome
Work Related Challenges
Job Seeking Skills Training
Services to Employers
Number of articles, research, studies looking
at the entire range of ASD in relation to
identification, treatment, and school-based
Limited research focusing on the vocational
needs of adolescents and young adults on the
higher end of the spectrum.
Some have begun to explore the needs of
individuals with ASD in relation to
postsecondary education and vocational skill
development*, but often these works attempt
to comprehensively address all disorders on
the spectrum and fail to provide information
about diagnosis-specific interventions and
*Ardeon & Durocher, 2007; Atwood, 2007: Dillon, 2007; Hillier,
Fish, Cloppert, & Beversdorf, 2007; Howlin, Alcock, & Burkin,
2005; Hurlbutt & Chalmers, 2004; & Kitchen, 2007
One of five pervasive developmental disorders
known as ASD
First coin as “Autistic Psychopathy” in 1944 by
Austrian Pediatrician, Hans Asperger.
Was not widely know in English speaking countries
until Lorna Wing published on the subject in the
Was not recognized by the American Psychological
Association until 1994 (Barnhill, 2007).
“Life-long developmental disorder, that is
considered to fall on the higher functioning end of
the autism spectrum disorder” (Barnhill, 2007).
Aspergers is present in 7 out of 1000 births.
1 in 200 primary school age children have
Aspergers (Cohen-Baron, 2005)
Individuals with Aspergers often look “normal” but
their behaviors are considered abnormal by society
Symptomalolgy ranging from mild to severe- often
difficult to portray accurate picture of the disorder.
A. Qualitative impairment in social
interactions, as manifested by at least two
of the following:
◦ Marked impairment in the use of multiple
◦ Failure to develop peer relationships
appropriate to developmental level.
◦ Lack of spontaneous seeking to share
enjoyment, interests, or achievements with
◦ Lack of social or emotional reciprocity.
C. The disturbance causes clinically significant
impairment in social, occupational, or other
important areas of functioning.
D. There is no clinically significant general delay in
E. There is no clinically significant delay in
cognitive development or in the development of
age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior,
and other curiosity about the environment in
F. Criteria are not met for another specific
Pervasive Developmental Disorder or
1. Lack of empathy.
◦ Not to be confused with Theory of Mind (TOM).
“inherent disability of putting themselves in someone else's shoes or
understanding the psychological perspective of others” (Lacava, et al,
2007. p. 174)
Empathy is reacting to the individual once TOM has been accomplished (Lacava,
et al, 2007)
Inappropriate one-sided conversations.
Little or no ability to form friendships.
Poor non-verbal communications.
Intense absorption in certain
“Aspergers lack the ability to understand and use the unwritten rules
governing social behavior” (Wing, as cited by Lee & Park,
2007, p. 132-33)
Functional impairments and marked deficiencies
in social interactions, communication, and
behaviors. (vary by individual)
Viewed by others as odd, egocentric, peculiar, or
Few, if any, meaningful peer relationships.
Co-morbidity of other disorders
Increases social distance between the individual
with AS and his or her peers
Emerge from the deficits in social skills and
Difficulties both in job attainment and job
Skills necessary to work effectively on work
Challenges related to stigma associated with
their disability and accompanying negative
perceptions of their co-workers and
Requires a wide array of transition services over
an extended period of time
View individual holistically- strengths,
challenges, and opportunities
Team representing a variety of disciplines
Working alliance model (Bordin, 1994)
◦ Assessement and intervention strategies promoting early
◦ Extensive job acquisition and placement support
◦ On-going follow up
Provide opportunities for introductory work
Provide avenues for:
◦ Discovering the world of work
◦ Learn and practice general work behaviors
◦ Develop self-awareness of strengths, weaknesses,
and career interests
◦ Match their abilities, interests, etc. to the world of
Focus on strengths and assets that he/she
has to offer a potential employer
Break down tasks of finding a job into
Ample time in a supportive and nonthreatening environment to practice
interview, cold call, responding to inquires
◦ Role plays
◦ Immediate constructive feedback
Further practice, therapy for the use of
pragmatic language skills
Address and practice disability disclosure
◦ Requesting Accomadations
Group training can be especially advantageous
Supported employment is a job placement and
training intervention designed to prepare people
with disabilities for competitive employment in
integrated, community-based work settings
Services are targeted at: (Job Coaches)
◦ (a) determining the individual’s abilities and support
needs in the workplace;
◦ (b) locating and obtaining suitable employment;
◦ (c) identifying and providing workplace supports to
enhance job performance; and
◦ (d) problem solving issues that, if left unaddressed could
lead to termination of employment
Supported education emphasizes the provision of
extensive services, above and beyond the
academic support services that are typically
provided to students with disabilities, to address
behaviors that may interfere with success and to
facilitate a positive adjustment to the academic
Stress management training
Referral to campus resources
Increasing self-advocacy skills:
◦ Access to information about legal protections
◦ Develop skills at disclosing disability information
◦ Identify and request accommodation needs
Examples of Potential Accommodations:
◦ Provide advanced notice of topics for meetings
◦ Bring job coach, co-worker etc. to meetings
◦ Communicate in writing rather than verbally
Efforts directed towards employers focus on understanding the
workplace’s normative behavioral and communicative standards
Educate the employer to understand how individuals with ASDs
may have a difficult time meeting these normative standards
Help employers to develop positive frames of reference
concerning their employees with ASDs, and assisting employers
to develop effective, appropriate, and non-discriminatory
responses towards their employees with ASDs.
Identify the positive aspects of hiring individuals with AS:
Attention to detail
Less distracted by social aspects of the workplace- more productive
Adreon, D., & Durocher, J. S. (2007). Evaluating the college transition
needs of individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
Intervention in School and Clinic, 425), 271-279.
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical
manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Asperger, H. (1944). Die “Autistischen Psychopathen” in Kindesalter.
Archiv fur Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, 117, 76-136.
Attwood, T. (1998). Asperger’s syndrome: A guide for parents and
professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Attwood, T. (2007). The complete guide to Asperger’s syndrome.
London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Bauer, S. (2007). Asperger syndrome. Retrieved on November 2, 2007
Bordin, E.S. (1994). Theory and research in the therapeutic working
alliance: New directions. In A.O. Horvarth & L.S. Greenberg (Eds.), The
working alliance: Theory, research, and practice. NY: John Wiley: 13-37.
Bowen, C. (2001). Semantic and pragmatic difficulties and semantic pragmatic
language disorder. Retrieved November 30, 2007 from http://speech-languagetherapy.com/spld.htm
Clements, J., & Zarkowska, E. (2000). Behavioral concerns and autistic spectrum
disorders: Explorations and strategies for change. London: Jessica Kingsley
Dillon, M. R. (2007). Creating supports for college students with Asperger’s
syndrome through collaboration. College Student Journal, 41(2), 499-504.
DuCharme, R. W., & Gullotta, T.P. (2003). Asperger syndrome. A guide for
professionals and families. New York: Kuwer Academic.
Ehlers, S., & Gillberg, C. (1993). The epidemiology of Asperger syndrome: A total
population study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 34(8), 1327-1350.
Fombonne, E. (1996). Is the prevalence of autism increasing? Journal of Autism
and Developmental Disorders, 26(6), 673-676.
Gillberg, C., & Billstedt, E. (2000). Autism and Asperger syndrome: Coexistence
with other clinical disorders. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 102(5), 321-330.
Gillberg, I. C., & Gillberg, C. (1989). Asperger syndrome - some epidemiological
considerations: A research note. Journal of the American Academy of Child
Adolescent Psychiatry, 30(4), 631-638.
Hillier, A., Fish, T., Cloppert, P., & Beversdorf, D. Q. (2007). Outcomes of a social and
vocational skills support group for adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum.
Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 22(2), 107-115.
Howlin, P., Alcock, J., & Burkin, C. (2005). An eight year follow-up of a specialist supported
employment service for high-ability adults with autism or Asperger syndrome. Autism, 9(5),
Hurlbutt, K., & Chalmers, L. (2004). Employment and adults with Asperger syndrome. Focus on
Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 19(4), 215-222.
Kadesjo, B., & Gillberg, C. (2000). Tourette’s disorder: Epidemiology and comorbidity in
primary school children. Journal of American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 39(5),
Kitchen, S. G. (2007). Accommodation and compliance series: Employees with Asperger
syndrome. Retrieved November 2, 2007 from http://www.jan.wvu.edu/media/asperger.html
Koch, L.C. (2000). Career development interventions for transition-age youths with disabilities.
Work, 14, 3-11.
Kowalski, T. P. (2006, April). Asperger’s syndrome training booklet. Training manual and
training presented by author. Wisconsin: MEDS PDN.
Martin, I., & McDonald, S. (2004). An exploration of causes of non-literal language problems in
individuals with Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34(3),
Meyer, R. N. & Attwood, T. (2001). Asperger Syndrome employment workbook. London: Jessica
Kingsley Publishers, Ltd.
Murray, D. (2006). Coming out Asperger. Diagnosis, disclosure, and self-confidence. London:
Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Myles, B. S., & Simpson, R. L. (1998). Asperger syndrome: A guide for educators and parents.
Austin, TX: PRO-ED, Inc.
Reed, C., & Rumrill, P.D. (1997). Supported employment: Principles and practices for
interdisciplinary collaboration. Work, 9, 237-244.
Rhode, M., & Klauber, T. (2004). The many faces of Asperger’s syndrome. London: Karnac.
Roessler, R., & Rumrill, P.D. (1995). Promoting reasonable accommodations: An essential
postemployment service. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 26(4), 3-7
Silverman, S. M., & Weinfeld, R. (2007). School success for kids with Asperger’s syndrome.
Waco, TX: Prufrock Press Inc.
Telzrow, C., & Koch, L.C. (2003). Nonverbal learning disability: Vocational implications and
rehabilitation treatment approaches. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 34, 2, 9-16.
Van Wierren, T., A., Reid, C.A., & McMahon, B.T. (in press). Workplace discrimination and
autism spectrum disorders: The national EEOC Americans with Disabilities Act research project.
Wahlberg, T., Obiakor, F., Burkhardt, S., & Rotatori, A. F. (Eds.). (2001). Autistic spectrum
disorders: Educational and clinical interventions. Amsterdam: JAI/Elsevier Service.
Wehman, P., Targett, P., Yasuda, S., McManus, S., & Briel, L. (2007). Helping persons with
traumatic brain injury of minority origin: Improve career and employment outcomes. Journal of
Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 22(2), 95-104.
World Health Organization. (2007). Chapter V. Mental and behavioural disorders (F00-F99.
Retrieved on November 2, 2007 from