Preparation for Adulthood

Supported Employment

Having a job is about more than just making money. It is a chance to be an active part of the community. It provides a feeling of independence and contribution. It also allows one the opportunity to feel good about his or her accomplishments. Not to mention all the little perks—meeting new people, learning new things, job-related social events, etc.

So, what do you do when you decide you want to get a job? You find some places that interest you, perhaps see if they are hiring, call to set up an interview or stop by to fill out an application, then wait to hear if you got that job or not. This is a process that you most likely complete independently without much (if any) help. And if you don’t get the job you apply for, you take it on yourself to start the process all over again!

Well, a person with disabilities may follow the same exact process you do. Or that person may need some assistance in finding a job. In case a person with a significant disability does need some help, that person can look into “Supported Employment”. Typically, this is when an individual works with a supported employment agency to help find a job in a regular work setting – a job that matches the person’s strengths and interests. Supported Employment is intended to help individuals with more severe disabilities who will need ongoing support in order to be successful in their job. Therefore, a supported employment agency is not only helpful in finding a job, but also in providing such support as job coaching, transportation, assistive technology, and individually tailored supervision. What a great resource!

Like many other service agencies in the community, supported employment services aim to help a person decide what is best for him or herself. The focus is on the person and that person’s choices, not on the choices others want to make for the individual. This is a key fact to remember—the focus should always be on the wants and desires of the focal person, and from there, finding an appropriate and satisfactory position. What should be avoided is trying to fit a person into already existing positions without considering what he or she would like and enjoy doing.

The other important part of supported employment is the notion of ongoing supports, like job coaching, assistive technology, etc. For example, a job coach is someone who is hired by the placement agency to provide on-site training to help the employee in learning and performing their job and adjusting to their work environment. There are four major components to the job coach support:

Evaluation: This means devoting time to the person with disabilities to determine his or her interests, skills, and the kind of work that would be a good fit for that person.

Job development and job analysis: This step involves seeking the kind of work desired, perhaps negotiating a customized job that matches both the employer’s needs and the person’s interests and skills, and supporting the person through his or her interview once a suitable job has been found.

On-the-job support: Once the person has been hired, the job coach introduces him or her, and serves as an advocate by being a bridge that connects the person with co-workers. The job coach promotes the use of the company’s typical ways of teaching and supporting all employees and provides supplemental guidance or instructional support as needed.

Follow-up: The job coach keeps in touch with the person and his or her employer to see how things are going, to provide guidance if necessary and to help with job advancements. The job coach also works to ensure that the person has friends at the workplace and the opportunities to continue to learn from co-workers.

Another important form of support is natural supports. Within the workplace, natural supports refer to support from supervisors and co-workers such as mentoring, socializing, friendships, training, and providing feedback on job performance. Building relationships with co-workers is a natural way for a person with a significant disability to receive some support on the job. Co-workers are a great resource that can provide not only friendship, but assistance when necessary.

Think about the term “natural supports”. On a sheet of paper, provide 5 examples of how co-workers could provide natural support in the workplace for a person with disabilities. How is this similar to what you do as a peer buddy in the classroom?