Autistic Spectrum Disorder: Needs Assessment Plan

Introdiction

For people diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), transitioning from school to adult life can be an extremely challenging process due to the specific needs that they have. The New Beginnings Program based in Miami, Florida is developed to address these challenges and provide young adults having ASD with timely access to vocational and life skills training, thus improving their employment and quality of life outcomes. This paper outlines the needs assessment plan for this project based on the use of surveys and other researchers’ findings.

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Purpose and Scope of the Needs Assessment

The needs assessment for the New Beginnings Program is aimed at using the method of quantitative survey to study the most problematic aspects of post-school life reported by individuals with ASD and their parents. A 20-question online survey will be administered to high school graduates with ASD who live in Miami, Florida, with two questions to be answered by their parents. To inform the selection of the subgroups experiencing the largest barriers to education and professional development and analyze the problem’s geography, the needs assessment procedure is required. The assessment is to define the degree to which high school graduates with ASD will benefit from the proposed efforts, such as the provision of new vocational training opportunities. When it comes to scope, the planned interventions will touch upon numerous details of the identified problem. For instance, they will focus on factors that make the population less likely to transition from school to adult life successfully, the structure of the priority groups, and the outcomes of the previously implemented solutions.

Data Collection and Analysis Plan

The results of the needs assessment should provide unambiguous answers to questions related to the priority population, its subgroups, and the success of solutions that are already in use. Apart from the review of initiatives aimed at helping people with ASD to transition to adult life and increase their independence from parents or caregivers, a quantitative online survey including twenty questions will be used (Nardi, 2018). This method of data collection is preferable since it involves obtaining information from the affected population in a direct manner (Nardi, 2018). Within the frame of the needs assessment, high school graduates with ASD living in Miami will be provided with the link to a survey.

During the data collection process, respondents will have to answer twenty multiple-choice questions related to their perceptions of current and future challenges. In addition to providing demographic details, such as gender, age, ethnicity, place of living, family income, and employment status, respondents will be required to evaluate autistic people’s chances to achieve success in their community. Particular questions will refer to jobs availability, the degree to which ASD impacts people’s access to post-school opportunities, and the presence of vocational guidance services in the area. In addition to reporting general tendencies, respondents will assess their own situation and state if they need special training to develop life skills and find a job. The last two questions about ASD people’s post-school opportunities in Miami and availability of guidance services will have to be answered by respondents’ caregivers or skipped for some reason.

Survey results will be analyzed systematically to make conclusions and define the predictors of greater vulnerability to post-graduation challenges. To begin with, the percentage of former students diagnosed with ASD who report a great need for community support will be calculated. Also, statistical tests for the comparison of two samples will be conducted to evaluate the potential connections between demographic factors and perceived education/employment challenges for autistic school graduates. The results of data analysis will be used to complete the next steps of the assessment process and single out the subgroups reporting the greatest need for professional help with transition from school.

Factors Linked to the Problem: Current Solutions and Their Success

To start the program, it is pivotal to analyze specific factors impacting autistic individuals’ post-school opportunities. One of these factors is the range of programs targeted at people with ASD and the degree to which they solve the identified problem. As for the things that are currently being done, there are official programs providing vocational training, but they are few in number (Seaman & Cannella-Malone, 2016). The first factor explaining this tendency is the stigmatization of developmental disorders that reduces the number of businesses ready to employ young adults with ASD (Seaman & Cannella-Malone, 2016). Secondly, the limited amount of financial resources is a significant factor impacting the availability of solutions. For instance, on average, adults diagnosed with ASD utilize more expensive vocational rehabilitation services compared to people with other disorders (Seaman & Cannella-Malone, 2016).

To check the listed hypotheses, it will be pivotal to collect data about local organizations, such as ADE Miami and the Florida Autism Center of Excellence (FACE). Next, the analysis of customer reviews will be conducted to identify gaps in services and the key concerns of the target population. The survey responses provided by individuals with ASD will also help to define the success of prior efforts and programs. For instance, using their employment status data and answers related to the availability of training programs, it will be possible to outline state-specific service gaps in Miami. Interestingly, according to modern research, the needs of the disabled population have been addressed, but the so-called services cliff presents a significant concern (Remnick, 2019). Therefore, nowadays, the available funds are used primarily to provide services targeted at younger people diagnosed with ASD. The analysis of the mentioned organizations’ work and how it relates to online survey results will help to increase the program’s chances of success.

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Program Focus: Priority Population, Subgroups, and Their Needs

The identification of the program focus is another procedure related to the assessment of needs. As it has been mentioned, the chosen priority population includes high school graduates with a diagnosis of ASD. The needs of this large group include access to effective vocational training programs taking into account their talents, intellectual opportunities, and personal situation (Taylor & DaWalt, 2017). The survey findings are expected to support this idea and provide additional details that young autistic adults would like to emphasize.

The defined group is large and heterogeneous, and narrowing the focus of the program will be an essential step. First of all, the planned data collection procedure will help to study the internal structure of the priority population. It is hypothesized that some demographic characteristics are the predictors of post-school challenges in people with ASD. Judging from the existing academic literature, many factors that impact inequality within the group align with the well-known traits of vulnerable populations in general. As an example, the study conducted by Gere, Burnett, Flowers, and Akaaboune (2017) reveals that disabled clients’ income has a significant impact on their employment outcomes and options offered by agencies. Therefore, the subgroup that is likely to experience a greater need for professional help with training and employment includes low-income adults diagnosed with ASD.

The next factor that is likely to predict autistic young adults’ access to vocational training services is inextricably connected to the economic situation. As it is reported by Gere et al. (2017) in their study devoted to disability and opportunities, ethnicity can also be listed among the variables associated with the success of collaboration with vocational training agencies. Using this logic, high-risk populations with ASD are likely to be concentrated in low-income neighborhoods in Miami with high proportions of non-native English speakers. Nowadays, the increased risks of post-school challenges in autistic individuals who live in disadvantaged areas are recognized in some studies. For example, in their research, Anderson, Martin, and Haynes (2017) highlight extra barriers to serving the rural low-wage population with ASD resulting from limited access to resources. With the help of survey dissemination, it will be possible to further analyze the mentioned tendencies and structure the program accordingly.

Validation of the Prioritized Needs

The stage of data analysis will allow studying subgroups on the basis of income, geography, and ethnicity to conduct the needs prioritization procedure. To validate the results, it will be pivotal to draw comparisons between the results of online survey and the study of two organizations, ADE Miami and FACE, and their clients’ reviews. In case of respondents’ sincerity, the two sets of perspectives on the post-school life of ASD individuals will be similar and, for the most part, represent the same themes. In case of significant differences between the two sets of data, additional needs assessment procedures will need to be implemented.

Conclusion

To sum it up, to provide accurate results, the needs assessment procedure should involve collecting new data and summarizing previous research related to employment outcomes for the ASD individuals. The collection of survey data will help to study post-school challenges and related needs with reference to ethnic, geographic, and income subgroups in the ASD population. The revalidation of these findings will allow achieving maximum accuracy and addressing service gaps affecting specific populations.

References

Anderson, C. M., Martin, R. J., & Haynes, R. D. (2017). Supporting students with autism spectrum disorder in rural schools. In K. D. Michael & J. P. Jameson (Eds.), Handbook of rural school mental health (pp. 213-230). New York, NY: Springer.

Gere, B. O., Burnett, R. D., Flowers, C. R., & Akaaboune, O. (2017). Efficiency in vocational rehabilitation program service delivery: The impact of socioeconomic context. Rehabilitation Research, Policy, and Education, 31(4), 338-351.

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Murphy, A. K., & Allard, S. W. (2015). The changing geography of poverty. Focus, 32(1), 19-23.

Nardi, P. M. (2018). Doing survey research: A guide to quantitative methods (4th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Remnick, N. (2019). The coming care crisis as kids with autism grow up. The Atlantic. Web.

Seaman, R. L., & Cannella-Malone, H. I. (2016). Vocational skills interventions for adults with autism spectrum disorder: A review of the literature. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 28(3), 479-494.

Taylor, J. L., & DaWalt, L. S. (2017). Brief report: Postsecondary work and educational disruptions for youth on the autism spectrum. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(12), 4025-4031.

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