Evaluation of the ACE employment programme: helping employers to make tailored adjustments for their autistic employees

Beatriz Lopez, Nikolaos Kargas, Julie Udell, Tomas Rubin, Linda Byrgess, Dominic Drew, Ian McDonald, Ann O'Brien, Karen Templeton-Mepstead

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Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the views of autistic people, carers and practitioners regarding the barriers autistic employees face at work (Study 1) and to use these views to inform the design of an employment programme for autistic employees without learning disabilities (Study 2).

Design/methodology/approach: In Study 1, 16 (20%) carers, 17 (21%) practitioners and 47 (59%) autistic adults who had been or were currently employed, answered a survey regarding barriers at work. Study 2 evaluates the efficacy of a set of profiling assessment tools (PA) developed to help employers make individually-tailored adjustments for their autistic employees by delivering an employment programme consisting of 15, 8-week work placements.

Findings: In Study 1, only 25% of autistic adults reported having had adjustments in the workplace and all groups reported this as the main barrier – alongside employers’ lack of understanding. Two sets of results demonstrate the efficacy of the PA tools in addressing this barrier. First, a comparative cost simulation revealed a cost-saving in terms of on-job support of £6.67 per participant per hour worked relative to published data from another programme. Second, 83% of autistic employees reported having had the right adjustments at work.

Research limitations/implications: This is an exploratory study that did not include a comparison group. Hence, it was not possible to evaluate the efficacy of the PA tools relative to a standard employment programme intervention, nor to assess cost reduction, which currently is only estimated from already available published data.

Practical implications: Overall the findings from these studies demonstrate that the time invested in the high-quality assessment of the profile of autistic employees results in saving costs over time and better outcomes.

Originality/value: The originality of the Autism Centre for Employment programme resides in that, unlike other programmes, it shifts the focus from helping autistic employees to helping their employers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-15
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Autism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2021


  • autism
  • interventions
  • assessment
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • autism spectrum condition
  • behavioural phenotypes


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