Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have higher chances of landing a job if they undergo cognitive enhancement therapy.
Sienna, 43 years old, learned she had autism when she was already an adult. Her life growing up was rife with difficulties and misunderstandings.
“I had a job as a cashier after I graduated high school but the administration fired me because I wasn’t reliable, they thought I was stealing money. In truth, I think I gave the money away. Being a cashier was too much for me; all those sounds and the people lining up especially during rush hours to have their items punched in. I had to be on the move, and it was hard. Back then, I didn’t know I had autism and thought I was going crazy, or something was wrong with me,” she shared.
Bleak And Hope
The mother of three is just one of the many autistic adults who have a hard time landing and keeping jobs. Accordingly, almost half of the ASD adult population is still dependent on their families with one out of 5 unemployed. And the unfortunate streak stretches out to marriage with only 5% of the number reported to having been married.
But one study offers hope to autistic adults who want to hold jobs and eventually have the capability to live independent lives.
In a research conducted by a team led by Shaun Eack, a total of 54 autistic men and women with ages ranging from 16-45 received either supportive counseling or cognitive enhancement therapy within an 18-month period.
The group of over 50 individuals who have ASD was divided into two. One was given mind-enhancing computer tasks for an hour every week of the study period paired with activities that taught participants practical skills or how to act appropriately in given situations. The other group was put under enriched supportive therapy for one hour every week. The treatment involved a therapist teaching the group ways to manage their stress and cope up with their emotions. “[T]here is encouragement to both talk about your life outside the group and also to talk about the dynamics within the group.” Psychotherapist Ali Miller, MFT said.
Then, one researcher, who wasn’t privy to the kinds of treatments used for the study, recorded the participants’ scores on:
- Working memory
- Cognitive functions like mental-processing speed
- Social skills
- Emotional management
At nine months into the study, the team discovered that those who were placed under the cognitive enhancement therapy scored higher than those who were enrolled under the counseling method. However, that difference disappeared at the end of the study.
While researchers say that both treatments are feasibly effective in anteing up the capability of an autistic individual to land a job, the mid-study results suggest that cognitive enhancement therapy work faster than counseling alone. As Teresa Bolick, Ph.D. used to imply, “Securing assessment and treatment is even more frustrating for adults with ASD, their families and medical and developmental disabilities agencies. The shortage extends across multiple disciplines but the dearth of psychologists is especially striking given the multiple roles our discipline can fulfill.”
Furthermore, the development exhibited by the individuals who participated in both therapies showed that only the mind-enhancing method has a significantly positive impact on autism employment. It is because of the 29 individuals in the group; a measly seven had jobs at the start of the study. But by the end of it, 10 of the 21 individuals who completed the program were already holding jobs.
John Cutrone, LMHC, MCAP, CAS often says, “Being diagnosed with Autism does not have not to impact you negatively. People with Autism can live fulfilling and meaningful lives. It is about learning the tools and skills that can help lead to success.” Cognitive enhancement therapy is usually used to aid people with schizophrenia find and hold steady employment. The recent study showed that it could be employed to help those who have autism, too.
Because of the encouraging results, the team is undertaking a second, larger trial involving 100 autistic adults.