Since the start of the Dandelion program and the commencement of our research program, we have been very active in presenting at conferences in Australia and around the world. With the International Meeting for Autism Research, to be held in San Francisco, upcoming in March this year, here is a list of where we have presented our findings so far:
Hedley, D., Dissanayake, C., Spoor, J., Uljarević, M., Richdale, A., Bartram, T., Moss, S., & Wilmot, M. (2016). Long-term impact of supported employment on adults with ASD. Oral presentation at the 3rd Australasian Society for Autism Research (ASfAR) conference, Perth, December 8-9.
Hedley, D. (2016). Transition to employment: The Dandelion Program. Department of Defence “What’s your Ability” conference. Melbourne, Nov 30.
Hedley, D. (2016). The Dandelion Program: Transition to work. Autism CRC Program 3 meeting. Nov 23.
Hedley, D., Dissanayake, C., Richdale, A., Spoor, J., & Uljarević, M. (2016). Long-term benefits of supported employment for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Session presentation at the 15th World Congress of the International Association for the Scientifics Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD). Melbourne, VIC, August 15-19.
Spoor, J. R., Hedley, D., Dissanayake, C., Richdale, A., & Uljarević, M. (2016). The Dandelion program: Supporting meaningful work for individuals with Autism. Session presentation (Supporting Employment Outcomes for Individuals with a Disability) at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting: Making Organizations Meaningful. Anaheim, CA, August 5-9.
Hedley, D., Uljarević, M., & Nevill, R. (2016). The journey from screening to employment in Autism. Nationwide Children’s Hospital Child Development Centre, Columbus, OH, USA, May 19.
Hedley, D., Uljarević, M., & Nevill, R. (2016). The journey from screening to employment in Autism. TEACCH Centre, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, May 16.
Hedley, D., Dissanayake, C., Richdale, A., Uljarević, M., & Spoor, J. (2016). Psychological and social impact of transition to employment in Autism. Oral presentation at the SAP Autism at Work Summit: Academic Research Meeting. Newton Square, PA, March 23.
Hedley, D., Dissanayake, C., Richdale, A., Uljarevic, M., & Spoor, J. (2015). Employing talented adults on the Autism Spectrum. Oral presentation at the Amaze 13th Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Forum. Melbourne, Australia, November 25.
We are approximately at the midway point with regards this exciting research initiative. To evaluate success of the program it is necessary to first define success. The Dandelion Program is unique in that it places and supports a relatively large cohort of individuals with ASD within DHS. If success is defined in terms of job retention, which it often is when it comes to the evaluation of employment programs for people with ASD (please refer to Hedley et al., 2016), then a retention rate of around 95% is commendable and would certainly be considered successful relative to the available literature. Our research also identified high levels of trainee job satisfaction. While job satisfaction has rarely been examined in people with ASD thus making comparison with other studies difficult, satisfaction was certainly higher than trainees reported for previous occupations, and at least comparable to their colleagues.
Our qualitative study found that trainees were positive about the recruitment process and the program in general. This sentiment was reiterated by co-workers, support staff and family members. More recently we have begun to examine the impact of the program on the organisation, and have started focus groups and interviews with DHS employees who are not necessarily directly involved with the program or trainees. While it is too early to report on this work, co-workers continue to be supportive of the program, commenting that they felt that supporting staff with diverse needs is integral to the culture of DHS. Upon asking staff for a single word that described how they felt about DHS involvement in the Dandelion Program, “pride/proud” was the most common response, followed by “positive”, “fantastic” and “excellence”. Formal results from this study will be forthcoming and data collection needs to be expanded to additional sites. However, these early indicators suggest the Dandelion Program, at the least, has the potential to positively impact the organisation and staff more widely.
While we hoped to be able to comment on the positive impact of the program on the health and well-being of participants, to date our preliminary results are inconclusive and characterised by stability over time across our measures. That is, we are currently unable to report significant improvements in mental health or other quality of life measures as a result of participation in the program. Nevertheless, and given anecdotal reports of the positive impact of the program, we are hopeful that we will be able to report improvements on these measures in future – particularly as we collect more longitudinal data as it may simply be that significant effects will take time to develop.
In terms of next steps, we have been involved with HPE in developing a transition plan that targets trainee career development, particularly in developing independence and the skills that will assist trainees to integrate fully into the workforce, thereby reducing their reliance on the provided supports. This is an important step, and will serve to reflect the maturity of the program.
When Sam Briefer, 23, graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania last year, the job hunt began. At first it was slow going. He scored a few interviews, but was never called back.
Then in March, shortly after connecting with Specialisterne—a Danish company whose U.S. arm works to develop the talent of autistic people—professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) offered Briefer a full-time position on its accounting team.
ASDetect is a video-led self-assessment app for the early identification of autism in children, and is based on comprehensive, rigorous, world-class research conducted at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre.
The research underlying this app has proven 81% accurate in the early detection of autism and other related developmental conditions.
La Trobe University partnered with Salesforce to develop an early detection app to empower parents and caregivers to identify autism earlier and more accurately than ever before.
The free app – called ASDetect – won the Project of the Year iAward in the Research and Development Category. Since its launch in February 2016, ASDetect has had more than 10,000 downloads, almost 6000 registrations and 4,000 assessments undertaken.
A New York café has been credited with turning around the lives of adults with autism by employing them, and thereby giving them a chance to feel “productive”, “happy” and “fulfilled”.
Long Island mother Stacey Wohl opened Cause Café earlier this year in a bid to provide her two non-verbal children Logan, 17, and Brittany, 19, with the opportunity to work in a traditional employment setting. Out of a total of 15 employees, Ms Wohl, 49, now employs eight on the autism spectrum.
“Just because they have a disability doesn’t mean they can’t do the same things we do,” she said.
It is now a great honour to collaborate with another like minded global organisation, SAP, that shares the same ethos and purpose around people with autism. This could not have happened without the vision of Thorkil Sonne, the founder of Specialisterne. Looking at the brilliant people we have since been able to hire, this is proving to be an untapped market that has enabled us to enhance our services lines and create greater value to our customers.