Toward developing a simulated workplace laboratory for adults with high functioning autism spectrum disorders


Objective: Adults with high functioning autism spectrum disorders (HF-ASD) often experience difficulty in sustaining employment, yet little is known about workplace deficits in this population. This study aimed to assess the workplace performance of individuals with HF-ASDs in a previously validated laboratory workplace simulation environment. Method: Seven subjects of both sexes, ages 18 - 21 with a clinical diagnosis of ASD were brought in for a 10- hour workplace simulation, with a series of structured and unstructured tasks designed to elicit DSM-IV Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms and to provide objective measures of workplace performance. Results: HF-ASD participants performed significantly worse than Controls on several tasks throughout the day, particularly in the afternoon. Although HF-ASD subjects did not report elevated symptoms of ADHD, they completed significantly less of the unstructured tasks than Controls. Conclusion: These findings suggest that unstructured work activities and a lack of self-awareness are two primary areas of workplace deficits for individuals with HF-ASD.

Share and Cite:

Fried, R. , Joshi, G. , Kotte, A. , Kagan, E. and Biederman, J. (2013) Toward developing a simulated workplace laboratory for adults with high functioning autism spectrum disorders. Open Journal of Psychiatry, 3, 316-322. doi: 10.4236/ojpsych.2013.33032.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] CDC (2006) Mental health in the united states: Parental report of diagnosed autism in children aged 4-17 years —United states, 2003-2004. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 55, 481-486.
[2] Fombonne, E. (2003) The prevalence of autism. Journal of the American Medical Association, 289, 87-89. doi:10.1001/jama.289.1.87
[3] Baird, G., et al. (2006) Prevalence of disorders of the autism spectrum in a population cohort of children in south thames: The special needs and autism project (snap). Lancet, 368, 210-215. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69041-7
[4] Muller, E., Schuler, A. and Yates, G.B. (2008) Social challenges and supports from the perspective of individuals with asperger syndrome and other autism spectrum disabilities. Autism, 12, 173-190. doi:10.1177/1362361307086664
[5] Howlin, P., Alcock, J. and Burkin, C. (2005) An 8-year follow-up of a specialist supported employment service for high-ability adults with autism or asperger syndrome. Autism, 9, 533-549. doi:10.1177/1362361305057871
[6] Garcia-Villamisar, D. and Hughes, C. (2007) Supported employment improves cognitive performance in adults with autism. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 51, 142-150. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2006.00854.x
[7] Higgins, K.K., Koch, L.C., Boughfman, E.M. and Vierstra, C. (2008) School-to-work transition and asperger syndrome. Work, 31, 291-298.
[8] Lawer, L., Brusilovskiy, E., Salzer, M.S. and Mandell, D.S. (2009) Use of vocational rehabilitative services among adults with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39, 487-494. doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0649-4
[9] Ganz, M.L. (2007) The lifetime distribution of the incremental societal costs of autism. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 161, 343-349. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.4.343
[10] Meyer, R.N. (2001) Asperger syndrome employment workbook. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London.
[11] Gaus, V. (2007) Cognitive-behavioral therapy for adult asperger syndrome. The Guilford Press, New York.
[12] Klin, A., Volkmar, F. and Sparrow, S. (2000) Asperger syndrome. Guilford Press, New York City.
[13] Fried, R., et al. (2012) A controlled study of a simulated workplace laboratory for adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatry Research, 200, 949-956. doi:10.1016/j.psych res.2012.04.020
[14] Joshi, G., et al. (2010) The heavy burden of psychiatric comorbidity in youth with autism spectrum disorders: A large comparative study of a psychiatrically referred population. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40, 1361-1370. doi:10.1007/s10803-010-0996-9
[15] Joshi, G., et al. (2011) Discriminant and concurrent validity of a simplified DSM-based structured diagnostic instrument for the assessment of autism spectrum disorders in youth and young adults. BMC Psychiatry, 11, 204. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-11-204
[16] Wechsler, D. (1997) Wechsler adult intelligence scale III [manual]. The Psychological Corporation, San Antonio.
[17] Jastak, J. and Jastak, S. (1993) Wide range achievement test-third edition. Jastak Associates, Wilmington.
[18] Delis, D., Kaplan, E. and Kraemer, J.H. (2001) Deliskaplan executive function system (d-kefs). The Psychological Corporation, San Antonio.
[19] Robbins, T.W., et al. (1998) A study of performance on tests from the cantab battery sensitive to frontal lobe dysfunction in a large sample of normal volunteers: Implications for theories of executive functioning and cognitive aging. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 4, 474-490. doi:10.1017/S1355617798455073
[20] Wise, L., Chia, W. and Rudner, L. (1990) American institutes for research the secretary’s commission on achieving necessary skills. Pelavin Associates, Washington, DC.
[21] Thompson, T. (2008) Self-awareness: Behavior analysis and neuroscience. The Behavior Analyst, 31, 137-144.
[22] Verhoeven, E.W., et al. (2012) Brief report: Relationship between self-awareness of real-world behavior and treatment outcome in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 889-894. doi:10.1007/s10803-011-1311-0
[23] Happe, F. (2003) Theory of mind and the self. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1001, 134-144.
[24] Jackson, P., Skirrow, P. and Hare, D.J. (2012) Asperger through the looking glass: An exploratory study of self-understanding in people with asperger’s syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 697-706.
[25] Mundy, P., Gwaltney, M. and Henderson, H. (2010) Selfreferenced processing, neurodevelopment and joint attention in autism. Autism, 14, 408-429.
[26] Ponnet, K., Buysse, A., Roeyers, H. and De Clercq, A. (2008) Mind-reading in young adults with asd: Does structure matter? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 905-918.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.