Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #34
CE Offered: BACB
Improving Vocational Skills and Employment Outcomes in Adolescents and Adults With Developmental Disabilities
Saturday, May 28, 2022
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Meeting Level 2; Room 252A
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Tracie B. Mann (Child Study Center at Cook Children's Medical Center)
Discussant: April N. Kisamore (Hunter College)
CE Instructor: April N. Kisamore, Ph.D.

Adults with developmental disabilities face many barriers when seeking job opportunities, resulting in a significantly lower rate of employment compared to adults without disabilities. Even when employed, individuals in this population tend to work fewer hours and earn less money. One contributing factor to this phenomenon is the lack of preparation individuals with disabilities experience during their school years, which leads to many young adults finding themselves ill-equipped to enter the workforce. This symposium presents the results of four studies, conducted across four different research labs, evaluating variables related to improving vocational skills and employment outcomes in adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities. In the first presentation, Budge et al. present their work on extending LaRue et al.’s (2019) study evaluating the utility of a skill-based assessment to identify individual vocational aptitude, and then comparing performance on aptitude matched and unmatched jobs. Budge et al. expanded the assessment to include environmental factors (e.g., indoor v. outdoor, loud v. quiet. etc.). In the second presentation, Dora et al. describe their study on modifying Lerman et al.’s (2017) assessment of vocational social skills by using videoconferencing software. In the third presentation, Beahm et al. present their work on using an app-based token economy to increase engagement with daily living and vocational tasks in adults with disabilities. Finally, in the fourth presentation, James-Kelly et al. present data from their study on teaching adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities how to participate in an interview. The symposium will conclude with remarks from a discussant.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Adults, BST, employment, Vocational assessment
Target Audience:

BCBAs: practitioners and applied researchers who work with adolescents or adults with autism or other developmental disabilities.

Learning Objectives: (1) Describe a method to assess job-related social skills and job aptitude and identify how to use assessment results; (2) Understand how to use behavioral skills training to teach interview skills; (3) Describe a procedure to use a token economy to improve engagement with daily living and vocational tasks.

Accounting for Environmental and Task-Specific Factors for Improving Employment Matching for Adolescents and Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder

JENNA BUDGE (Rutgers University), Robert LaRue (Rutgers University), James Maraventano (Rutgers University), Todd Frischmann (Rutgers University), Caitlin Kehoe (Rutgers University), SungWoo Kahng (Rutgers University)

Employment rates for adults with autism are significantly lower than those reported for any other population of adults with disabilities (Bush & Tassé, 2017). LaRue and colleagues (2019) developed a skill-based vocational assessment for six individuals diagnosed with ASD. The assessment evaluated preference for specific task characteristics (i.e., interaction, task complexity, movement). The authors used the assessment results to design matched and unmatched work tasks. They found that matched tasks were consistently more preferred and resulted in less disruptive behavior and more on task behavior. While the findings of the LaRue et al. study useful for the purpose of modifying jobs, the initial version of the assessment does not account for other environmental factors that may contribute to job success. In the current investigation, we are expanding the original assessment model proposed by LaRue and colleagues to include environmental factors, including noise level (noisy v. quiet), setting (indoor v. outdoor), and presence of others (crowded v. non-crowded). As in the original study, matched and unmatched jobs will be designed using the environmental assessment results. Preliminary data suggest that the use of this brief, skill-based vocational assessment may be a viable tool for improving employment outcomes for adolescents and adults with ASD.

Conducting an Assessment and Intervention of Vocational Social Skills via Telehealth
MEGAN DORA (University of Houston - Clear Lake), Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Sopia Som (Virginia Institute of Autism), Amanda Davis (University of Houston - Clear Lake)
Abstract: In this study, we implemented a modified version of the assessment of vocational social skills described in Lerman et al. (2017) with participants via videoconferencing software. Any skills deficits identified during the assessment received training using a response-to-intervention approach. The response-to-intervention approach included written instructions, textual prompts, corrective feedback, and Behavior Skills Training (BST). Two participants, ages 16 -19 participated. The trainer introduced intervention components as needed. We also evaluated generalization from telehealth to in vivo sessions. Results indicated that the response-to-intervention approach was effective in improving the targeted skills. In addition, generalized responding from telehealth to in vivo sessions emerged. These findings add to the current literature by demonstrating a method for both assessing job-related social skills and determining the most effective prompting strategy to teach those skills directly via telehealth.

Using an App-Based Token Economy to Increase Engagement in Daily Living and Vocational Tasks With Adults With Developmental Disabilities

LYDIA A BEAHM (Virginia Institute of Autism), Einar T. Ingvarsson (Virginia Institute of Autism), Noelle Arico Funk (Virginia Institute of Autism), Lauren Haskins (Virginia Institute of Autism), Jake Frazier (Virginia Institute of Autism, Florida Institute of Technology)

The token economy intervention is an evidence-based practice that improves outcomes across populations, settings, and behaviors. Nonetheless, their complex nature frequently leads to ineffective implementation. Additionally, little is known about the extent to which token economies are effective for increasing engagement in adults with disabilities. Therefore, we conducted a multiple probe across participants study to evaluate the effectiveness of an app-based token economy to increase engagement with daily living and vocational tasks in adults with disabilities. All participants increased their engagement with tasks following the introduction of the intervention. However, social validity results indicate that staff members found some components of the interventions challenging to implement.


Using Behavioral Skills Training to Teach Interview Skills to Adolescents and Adults With Developmental Disabilities

KIMBERLY JAMES-KELLY (Child Study Center at Cook Children's), Tracie B. Mann (Child Study Center at Cook Children's)

Adults with developmental disabilities are underemployed compared to their typically developing counterparts. Teaching adolescents and young adults with disabilities interview skills is an important first step toward securing employment. There are data to suggest that behavioral skills training (BST) is effective in this endeavor, but more are needed. We taught adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities to respond to a set of commonly asked interview questions using BST. Correct responding included an appropriate, on-topic answer and appropriate body language. We used a multiple probe design across question categories to evaluate the effects of BST on responding to taught questions. We also measured the extent to which the effects generalized to untaught but similar questions, and to different interview formats (phone and Zoom interviews). Preliminary findings indicate BST is effective in improving interview skills across response components and facilitates some degree of generalization.




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