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(SDAS) Transition Age Young Adults with Autism: The role of Self-determination, Social Skills, Job Search, Transportation, and Rehabilitation Services in Employment Outcomes

Final Report

(SDAS) Transition Age Young Adults with Autism: The role of Self-determination, Social Skills, Job Search, Transportation, and Rehabilitation Services in Employment Outcomes Final Report (PDF)


  • Adolescence (12-18 years)
  • Young Adulthood (19-25 years)


Current research shows that a low percentage of youth with developmental disabilities transition from secondary education to employment. For persons with autism, employment outcomes are bleaker, with studies that suggest even lower participation rates, lower earnings, and employment positions that are inappropriate given an individual's skill set. In order to improve the employment outcomes of youth with disabilities, and in particular of youth with autism, we need a better understanding of factors that predict employment outcomes. This study extends our prior research funded through the Maternal and Child Health Research Program in FY 2010. In that study we analyzed the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) to describe the relationships between employment related training, family expectations, and transition planning prior to graduation with post-school outcomes including employment. This study will extend that research to address other life domains that have been identified as correlates of post-school success including self-determination, social skills, job search strategies, and use of transportation (target domains). The project will compare young adults with autism to peers with other disabilities across the target domains, identify relationships between the target domains and employment outcomes, and extend the analyses by including the final wave five of the NLTS2 dataset, soon to be released. In our previous research we also analyzed the Rehabilitation Services Administration 911 (RSA911) dataset to investigate the relationships between transition outcomes of youth with autism and their demographics as well as rehabilitation services that they received. In that study we found that although individual predictors were correlated with transition outcomes, other external factors play a major role as well. Building on that study we propose to expand the analysis by investigating how the outcomes of the 51 state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies vary across the nation and what the trends of these outcomes have been over the past five years. After controlling for the state socio-economic environments, this analysis will allow to identify states that reported above average outcomes and growing trends in their employment outcomes when serving youth with autism. These findings are critical for pointing to where best practices are likely to reside so that they can be studied for replication, nationwide. The analyses of both the NLTS2 and RSA911 datasets will compare youth with autism with their peers with other disabilities as well as describe variation in target skills and outcomes of underserved populations including low income and racial/ethnic minorities. The short, medium, and long-term outcomes of this research project are dissemination of new knowledge, increased understanding about youth with autism's transition from school to employment and adult life, and increased quality of life of adults with autism.


Listed is descending order by year published.

Zalewska A, Migliore A, Butterworth J. Self-determination, social skills, job search, and transportation: is there a relationship with employment of young adults with autism? J Vocational Rehabilitation. 2016;45(3):225-39.

Migliore, A., Butterworth, J., Zalewska, A. Trends in vocational rehabilitation services and outcomes of youth with autism: 2006-2010. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin. 2013. 57(2), 80-89.

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