RRTC leadership, staff examine interventions for people with ASD

Spotlight on RRTC leadership and staff research

Headshots of Dr. Paul Wehman and Dr. Carol Schall of the VCU Rehabilitation Research and Training Center.
Paul Wehman, Ph.D., and Carol Schall, Ph.D.

The amount of knowledge being generated by VCU School of Education faculty in published research goes beyond merely enhancing the school’s reputation – it is helping to shape the future of education itself. One recent example of this is the study below, co-authored by Drs. Carol Schall and Paul Wehman as well as several other staff members at the VCU Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC), a center affilidated with the VCU School of Education, who conducted a review of existing literature about competitive integrated employment for youth and adults with autism.


Drs. Carol Schall and Paul Wehman, along with RRTC staff Dr. Lauren Avellone and Josh Taylor, conducted a review of literature to identify key research describing the effective employment interventions and practices for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who are seeking competitive integrated employment (CIE). Search criteria included population samples in which 100% of individuals had ASD, articles that were published in peer reviewed journals, and research-examined interventions resulting in CIE. The articles that met the criteria were then categorized into three different levels according to precision in terms of planning, data collection, analysis and reporting.

The literature review revealed a number of findings, including that Project SEARCH – a model that immerses high school students with disabilities into workplaces through customized internships – plus ASD Supports (PS + ASD) is an effective transition-to-work program for youth and young adults with ASD and significant support needs. Another finding was that technology, such as virtual reality interviewing, promotes the development of employment skills, job attainment and independence in a vocational setting. Numerous articles shared a common theme of supported employment that involved four phases, including assessment, support job searching, on-the-job training and long-term supports, while several other articles described correlations between services delivered and CIE.

The interventions that were most strongly recommended were PS + ASD and supported employment, and there were general commonalities among all the evidence-based interventions. More specifically, the most effective interventions included personalized assessment, evidence-based on-the-job training strategies, and intensive interventions using multiple strategies to meet job seekers’ needs. Equally as effective are diagnoses-specific supports that address the social communication needs of individuals with ASD at work, and interventions in real environments.


Schall, C., Wehman, P., Avellone, L., & Taylor, J.P. (2020). Competitive integrated employment for youth and adults with autism: Findings from a scoping review. Child and Adolescents Psychiatrics Clinics of North America, 29(2), 373-397. DOI: 10.1016/j.chc.2019.12.001.