Educational and vocational engagement and participation
Vocation (e.g., employment, study) can empower autistic adults to become more engaged, active and independent within their communities.
Research theme leader: Professor Cheryl Dissanayake
We are continuing work on the benefits to autistic individuals, employers and broader society of enhancing rates of autism employment, and on ensuring an individual differences approach to supporting autistic strengths at work.
OTARC Seminar series presentation - Associate Professor Jennifer Spoor
Autism@Work Employment Programs and Meaningful Work for Autistic Individuals
There has been a recent growth in autism employment programs that aim to improve employment outcomes for autistic adults while also benefitting the organisation by bringing in unique skills, interests, and perspectives of autistic people. As these Autism@Work style of employment programs proliferate, we think it is important to consider the ethical tensions that might arise in these programs, particularly with respect to whether these programs provide autistic people with meaningful work.
Jennifer Spoor is an Associate Professor in Management/HRM in the La Trobe Business School.
Autistic people face significant barriers to entering the workforce, which can make an important contribution to their well-being. Nine autistic adults participated in three focus groups aiming to understand the autistic experience around recruitment, selection, training, and onboarding in a supportive employment ICT program. We found four themes:
- trainees’ previous work experiences,
- expectations of the employment program,
- recruitment, and
- selection processes; and training and transition.
Overall, trainees in the program supported the use of alternate recruitment and selection processes.
Where to now? Our next step is identify ideal factors and support systems linked to successful employment for autistic people that lead to long-lasting and meaningful careers.
The ‘Supporting a Neurodiverse Workforce: A mental health and well-being resource and training package’ was designed to support the mental health and well-being of employees on the autism spectrum. It presents current, evidence-based information, and strategies about mental health and well-being, with specific information about mental health and autism. This project has been made possible due to the generous support of DXC Technology and the ANZ Bank, in partnership with the La Trobe University Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC).
The training package originated from the DXC Technology Dandelion Program. The Dandelion Program has been effective in recruiting, employing and supporting over 100 individuals on the autism spectrum in Information Communication Technology (ICT) roles. The program’s success is demonstrated by the ongoing achievements of candidates in the program, and the processes designed to support individual growth and development. Within the program, supervisors and support staff recognised that mental health concerns presented significant challenges to further achievement and growth. Importantly, they also recognised the absence of targeted and evidence-based information to support the mental well-being of employees on the autism spectrum in the workplace.
Given the lack of specific information to support the mental health of employees on the autism spectrum, this training package provides information for different audiences at different levels of specificity. For example, there is specific information for different end-users: executives, supervisors, mentors/colleagues, and employees on the autism spectrum. The modular training structure has also been designed to be a quick reference guide for mental health information and strategies, an in-depth information source with useful resources, or a full training course that can be used to establish workplace competency in mental health and autism.
With support from Untapped Holdings, this training package has been turned into an in-person training, as well as train-the-trainer training. It is currently being developed into an online course that will provide digital content and learning, to support the wellbeing of employees on the autism spectrum.
For information about the package, or the upcoming online training, please contact Simon Bury
- Businesses coached to support workers with autism - ABC AM 2021
- A world-first toolkit to assist workplaces to better support the mental health of autistic employees - La Trobe News 2021
- Supporting a neurodiverse workforce - The Canberra Times 2021
- I struggled with office life. Now others are alive to benefits of remote working - The Guardian 2021
- Autism in the workplace - ABC Radio Hobart 2021
- Career hope for people with autism - La trobe News 2018
- Ask me first: What self-assessments can tell us about autism - Spectrum News 2018
- Workforce success for autistic employees - LTU News 2019
Understanding the Experience of Autistic Working Mothers in Australia: An Exploratory Study
Funding: La Trobe University
This study aims to understand the benefits and challenges autistic women experience in being a parent/caregiver and being employed. It also aims to identify specific supports that are needed for autistic women who manage caring and work responsibilities.
Success in Higher Education for Neurodivergent Students
Funding: La Trobe University
Exploring the higher education experiences of neurodivergent students in order to better support them to complete their studies.
Interviewer perceptions of atypical workplace behaviours of an autistic jobseeker under disability disclosed or hidden conditions; evoking attribution and intergroup contact theory
Funding: La Trobe University
Exploring how diagnostic disclosure, attribution and intergroup contact theory might influence employment outcomes for autistic job seekers.
Olivia Corrente (Honours candidate), Rebecca Flower, Darren Hedley
Autism Spectrum Disorder and Higher Education
Alison Nuske (external PhD candidate - Flinders University), Fiona Rillotta, Michelle Bellon, Amanda Richdale
DXC Technology -The Dandelion Program: Autism employment
The creation of the Dandelion Program by multinational Hewlett Packard (now DXC Technology) in 2015 began with the dual aims of:
- Providing meaningful employment for a small group of autistic young people, and
- Tracking the success of the DXC’s alternative workplace approach in supporting autistic employees.
However, the impact of this initial small-scale program has spread far beyond that small group of individuals and their families, to now encompass:
- A freely-available protocol for other companies to follow in emulating the success of the Dandelion Program
- Programs in the Department of Human Services (DHS) software testing area; in cybersecurity at the Department of Defence, and most recently, in Records Information Management, at the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.
- 80 people with autism employed at DXC via the Dandelion Program
- 220 other organisations have downloaded material from Social Impact Practice, the DXC division devoted to spreading the approach pioneered at DXC
Specialisterne Australia, DXC Technology & the Department of Human Services
Specialisterne Australia, DXC Technology and the Department of Human Services ran The Dandelion Program to provide skilled employment for people with autism from 2014-2017. OTARC has an ongoing research partnership with the three organisations.