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Drs. Tammy Jorgensen Smith and Christina Dillahunt-Aspillaga Receive Funding to Improve Employment Outcomes for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Congratulations to Drs. Tammy Jorgensen Smith and Christina Dillahunt-Aspillaga who were recently awarded $672,750 through a federal National Institute of Health (NIH)/National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (R34) grant to refine and test an intervention to be utilized by community-based Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) service practitioners to improve competitive employment outcomes for adults (age 22+) diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The primary aims of the study are to:

  1. Refine training, treatment and study protocols to test the ACCESS intervention;
  2. Examine the feasibility and acceptability of ACCESS in an iterative open trial; and
  3. Examine the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary effects of ACCESS relative to usual care in a randomized controlled pilot trial of 30 adults with ASD.

Through their development and refinement of training, treatment, and study protocols, the research team expects to gather convincing evidence of the feasibility and effectiveness of the ACCESS intervention to support a larger randomized controlled trial (R01) delivered by certified VR practitioners to adults with ASD.

This research study has the potential to dramatically shift current practice paradigms by informing research and policy decisions and by customizing employment placement strategies to address the specific support needs of adult job seekers with ASD using the platform of an intervention already reimbursed by VR.

Given early evidence regarding the promise of customized interventions, ACCESS has the potential to yield far-reaching benefits for this population and the stakeholders who support them. 

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