Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in collaboration with Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) has implemented a study to determine the efficacy of a nine-month hospital-based internship intervention for transitioning young adults with ASD. The internship program, based on the Project SEARCH model, is currently being tested and evaluated in a randomized clinical trial at two Bon Secours Hospitals in Richmond, Virginia. VCU is replicating this intervention in two new Virginia hospitals: Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center in Portsmouth and Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center in Hanover. The intervention consists of two components: (1) 900 hours of onsite training over nine consecutive months at the host hospital site and (2) training and support provided by employment specialists with expertise in autism, applied behavior analysis, supported employment, and business networking.
The current Bon Secours, St Mary's Hospital site in Richmond, VA will be utilized as the hub program throughout the study for expanded data collection, training, and support to the two replication sites. Virginia DARS will partner with the project by assisting with enrollment and placement of the participants receiving the intervention.
Data is being collected on a number of key measures when comparing the outcomes of the youth participating in the randomized clinical trials. First, did the young adults with ASD obtain and retain competitive employment? Second, did they earn a commensurate wage (at least minimum wages) and benefits? Third, how many hours per week were they employed? Secondary measures will include 1) differences in support needs of the treatment vs the control group as measured by the Support Intensity Scale, 2) employer satisfaction, 3) employee satisfaction, 4) parent/guardian satisfaction, and 5) improvement in functional skills including social and communication skills.
The results of the project will also be disseminated through a variety of activities including referred journal publications with commitments secured for special issues of Evidenced - Based Practices in Autism, Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation.