From Autism Transition Handbook
Click on the +PA or +DE for both state and general information.
Employment Opportunities For Individuals with Autism
There are new models for employment emerging for people with autism. In the following programs, individuals with autism work side by side with others for competitive wages and with no permanent job coaching.
Walgreen's Disability Inclusion Program Walgreens opened two regional distribution centers programmed to include a large percentage of employees with disabilities. Individuals are hired because their abilities fit the job positions with the goal of making disabilities irrelevant to the hiring process. Contact Deb Russell, Manager of Outreach and Employee Services via Walgreens Media Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TIAA-CREF Fruits of Employment is an investment firm that has been purchasing farms around the world to diversify its investment portfolio. Two of the farms on the U.S. Pacific Coast are developing innovative employment projects for adults with autism aimed at integrating these adults in the traditional farm workforce of the agricultural industry. See more information at the following article: Why Autism Employment Makes Business Sense for Agriculture. Contact Heather Davis, Head of Global Private Markets, through the TIAA-CREF Media Office at email@example.com or at 888-200-4062.
Roses for Autism In 2009, historic Pinchbeck Rose Farm was about to go out of business due to staffing issues and overseas competition. A Local man with a son with autism realized that the common features of people with autism make a good match for the staffing needs of commercial rose production. Roses for Autism was the result, resurrecting Pinchbeck Rose Farm and forging a new path for autism employment. Contact Joan Volpe, Roses for Autism / Ability Beyond Disability, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aspiritech Individuals with high functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome are often quite good with computer system. Aspiritech is a Chicago based company which contracts to do software testing for software development companies. Aspiritech only hires people with high-functioning autism or Asperger's and then trains them to do software testing. Errors often arise when a software developer creates a new program in how all the parts interact. These are usually subtle errors which can only be found by "running it through its paces" with intensity and focus. The Aspiritech staff are trained to do that and document exactly the tests they ran and any issues they discovered. The business model is based on a group in Denmark called Specialisterne. Groups in Belgium, UK, Israel, and Japan are also using this model. Contact Brenda or Moshe Weitzberg at the following contact form: http://www.aspiritech.org/contacts/
What is an Internship?
In addition to these types of employment, an internship may also help your young adult learn more about the workforce. Internships are temporary positions where emphasis is placed on training and developing on the job skills. Internships exist in a variety of settings including but not limited to hospitals, small businesses, law firms, laboratories, and libraries. Internships can either be paid, unpaid, or partially paid (e.g., with a stipend), and can be either full-time or part-time. The on the job supervision and training characteristic of an internship may help many individuals with ASD attain the support they need to be successful later on in the job market.
Finding an Internship
Just as there are many ways to find a job, there are many different ways to find an internship. One way to find an internship, if your son or daughter is still in high school, is through their high school’s vocational program. Many high schools have vocational programs that seek to provide their students with professional experience and training through internships. To help your son or daughter to obtain an internship through their school, contact a school employee involved with the vocational program, such as the school vocational coordinator, school counselor, school psychologist, or transition specialist.
Another way to help your son or daughter find an internship is by contacting local businesses and asking if they would be interested in having an intern. Prior to contacting a particular business, it is important to learn as much information about the business as possible including if the business has a mission or vision statement, different resources and supports available to employees, and types of jobs and job requirements. It is also important to consider the type of role your son or daughter would have in the company, and how their strengths, abilities, and interests match that specific business. When contacting businesses, it is often best to speak to one of the mangers or owners of the business, and explain that you are interested in helping your son or daughter find an internship. Though many businesses may not specifically have an internship program, some businesses may be willing to work with you to create a role for your son or daughter in their company. Note that internships created in this manner tend to be un-paid.
Internships for Individuals with Autism
CIP is a national post-secondary program that supports young adults age 18-26 with autism and other learning differences as they transition to college, independence and the workplace. Students with learning differences receive individualized supports in social skills, college academics, internship and career development, and life skills. Areas of focus include a college or certification track, career skills training and employment program, and a visual and performing arts track. The admissions and criteria process can be found here.
Freddie Mac, a leading mortgage finance company, is partnering with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to fill four paid internship opportunities. The ASAN-Freddie Mac Internship Program is an opportunity for recent graduates and current students on the autism spectrum to gain work experience. Descriptions for each of the following positions can be found on the Autistic Self Advocacy Network website.
- Architecture & Data Services Intern
- SF CFO Strategy, Planning and Development Analyst Intern
- Securities Internship
- Testing Internship
What Steps Have Employers Made to Create Jobs for Individuals with Autism?
Many businesses are making an increased effort to incorporate programs for employing individuals with autism. Though not specific to Pennsylvania, Project Search through the Cincinnati Children’s medical hospital developed a model to provide internships to individuals with autism at their hospital. A group of individuals with autism was chosen to complete an internship at the hospital with both a classroom and hands-on component. During the internship, interns received on the job training and support to learn specific jobs including pulling and organizing charts, materials assembly, and patient transport.
Though this project is not currently in Pennsylvania, a number of nationally recognized businesses have taken steps to create jobs for individuals with disabilities. Some of these employers include Walgreens, Bank of America Card Center, Safeway, Lowes, AMC Theatres, Best Buy, and Marriot/Bridges.
See Also :
A list of internships provided by The American Association of People with Disabilities
What Steps Help Ensure Success on the Job?
When considering a possible job or employment in general, it is important to consider when and if your young adult will disclose that he has ASD. If he has had assistance securing the job and is being provided with job coaching, the primary question becomes not should one disclose, but rather what information is relevant for disclosure and to whom? Remember, in all cases, disclosure is a personal choice, and there is no law obligating anyone to disclose that they have a disability. However, to be eligible for accommodations under ADA, some level of disclosure will be necessary. The Appendix on When (and if) To Disclose provides more information on timing options for disclosure, helping you to think through the positives and negatives about disclosing at various stages in the job search process. There is no one correct answer for when to disclose; however, once disclosed, that information legally must be kept confidential by the employer.
Please also see the Workbook on Disability Disclosure.
Accommodations on the Job
The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to persons with a disability in the workforce if i would not impose “undue hardship” on the operation of the employer’s buisness. Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to:
• Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities
• Job restructuring or modifying work schedules
• Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices; adjusting/modifying examinations, training materials, or policies; and providing qualified readers or interpreters
• Additional training periods or instruction for developing job-related competencies.
For a more complete list of reasonable accommodations specific to autism, see the Appendix on Job Accommodations.
See also: The Job Accommodation Network
Educating Employers and Coworkers
Should your young adult decide to disclose, both employers and coworkers need to be educated about ASDs so that they can offer support when necessary. They will need to be trained on how to best work with your young adult. As part of the transition process, the transition team can establish what information will be necessary to teach future employers and coworkers about autism, and your young adult in particular. Be sure to emphasize areas where he will need help, along with his particular strengths.
Workplace-Specific Social Skills
Although social skills may not be necessary for your young adult to perform the actual job, they may be needed to help him or her keep the job or be more socially included at work. The social skills demanded vary from place to place, but there are basic skills that every employee should know. The following sections provide an overview of the areas where your young adult with ASD may need assistance or training to perform the job.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, has defined Customized Employment (CE) in the excerpt below, which is taken from the U.S. Department of Labor's website section entitled What is Customized Employment?
Customized employment is a flexible process designed to personalize the employment relationship between a job candidate and an employer in a way that meets the needs of both. It is based on an individualized match between the strengths, conditions, and interests of a job candidate and the identified business needs of an employer. Customized Employment utilizes an individualized approach to employment planning and job development — one person at a time ... one employer at a time.
Customized employment will often take the form of:
- Task reassignment: Some of the job tasks of incumbent workers are reassigned to a new employee. This reassignment allows the incumbent worker to focus on the critical functions of his/her job (i.e., primary job responsibilities) and complete more of the central work of the job. Task reassignment typically takes the form of job creation, whereby a new job description is negotiated based on current, unmet workplace needs.
- Job carving: An existing job description is modified — containing one or more, but not all, of the tasks from the original job description.
- Job sharing: Two or more people share the tasks and responsibilities of a job based on each other's strengths.
Less common — though becoming more established throughout the country — is Self-Employment as a form of Customized Employment. Self Employment allows for an individual to receive assistance in the creation of an independently owned small business (typically a micro enterprise, under five employees) based on the strengths and dreams of an individual and the unmet needs of a local market while incorporating the individualized planning and support strategies needed for success.
Applying Practical Solutions for Employment Success
The following comprehensive guide from the National Center on Workforce and Disability provides information on how to go about initiating and planning Customized Employment: Customized Employment: Applying Practical Solutions for Employment Success. The Customized Employment process is a flexible blend of strategies, services, and supports designed to increase employment options for job seekers with complex needs through voluntary negotiation of the employment relationship with an employer. The job seeker is the primary source of information and drives the process. The Customized Employment process begins with an exploration phase, which lays the foundation for employment planning. Planning results in a blueprint for the job search where an employment relationship is negotiated to meet the needs of both the job seeker and the employer.
Global Employment Skills
Global employment skills are universal in that they can be used in almost any job. Such skills relate to communication and social skills, self-management, time-management, problem solving abilities. With a universal set of skills in hand, individuals with disabilities can accomplish a variety of tasks successfully in addition to attaining the specific skill set provided during pre-employment training. Please see Employment Planning for People with Autism for more information on Customized Employment and global employment skills.
Components of Customized Employment
The following information describes the six central components of planning and creating a customized employment position. Each one can be found in more detail at the Transition & Employment Projects website.
Individualized Career Planning Model The Individualized Career Planning Model should be used for transition planning and career development for individuals with disabilities which incorporates the use of Social Security Work Incentives, natural supports, and linkages to Workforce Investment and other adult agencies to promote access to community employment and self-employment.
- The end goal of the planning is paid, community-based employment for each individual regardless of the severity of their disability. The innovative features of the model include: customized employment opportunities, work experiences, and transition planning for each individual driven by the his or her interests, support needs, strengths and contributions.
- Entrepreneurial options or self-employment are considered as a post-school outcome or as a career experience option for individuals in addition to traditional wage employment.
- Alternative resources which increase consumer and family choice and control over services to support employment, such as Social Security Work Incentives, are incorporated into transition planning.
- Linkages between agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation, Workforce Investment, and the schools are developed to promote the collaborative funding of employment and transition activities for each individual.
See more information and resources at: Individualized Career Planning Model
Discovery The Discovery process is used to learn more about the individual. Certain activities, interviews, and observations are used to gather information about the individual's interests, strengths, environments, best activities, effective supports, and present levels of performance. The process of Discovery intends to answer in the question "who is this individual" in order to provide direction to all future career development activities. Information should also be gathered from people who know the individual well. The person conducting Discovery spends time with the individual at his or her home, school, and in the community observing the individual in both familiar and unfamiliar activities.
Information gathered through the Discovery process is then captured in a written format called the Vocational Profile for the purpose of sharing the information for job development. This information and picture of who the individual is guides the selection or creation of school and community-based jobs.
See more information and resources at: Discovery Process
The Vocational Profile The Vocational Profile the document that records all of the information from the process of Discovery. It is offered as an alternative strategy to more traditional or standardized forms of vocational evaluation. The Profile provides concrete direction towards employment and provides a picture of the ideal conditions needed in an employment setting for the individual to be successful. The Profile also provides information and examples of supports, accommodations or adaptations that an individual currently uses to be successful within his or her environment. The Profile differs from a traditional vocational evaluation in that is does not numerically measure skills or abilities, compare the individual's performance against some standardized norm, or attempt to predict success or failure in regard to employment. Instead, the Profile describes an individual's performance and the supports that they need or use within familiar environments. This alternative assessment process does not weed individuals out of employment, but instead leads to the customization of their employment opportunities, which enables them to be successful. The ability to work in the community is presumed given the supports that the individual needs are in place.
See more information and resources at: Vocational Profile
Customized Employment Planning Meeting After the information gathered during the Discovery process is captured and summarized in the Vocational Profile format, it is time to plan for employment. Whereas the Discovery and Profile processes answer the question, “Who is this person?”, the Employment Planning Meeting answers the question, “What will they do for work?” The Planning Meeting is a structured group process which guides future job development activities. During the Planning Meeting, the information learned about the job seeker is compartmentalized into categories which become the customized guidelines or blue print for the job that will be sought or created.
The outcomes of the Planning Meeting will include:
- The terms of negotiation for a job which the individual needs to be successful,
- A summary of the person’s contributions which they can bring to an employer,
- A list of tasks that you know the individual can perform,
- And a prospecting list of specific employers in the person’s community whose business might: match the person’s conditions for employment, value the person’s contributions, and have a need for the tasks the person can perform.
See more information and resources at: Employment Planning Meeting
Representational Portfolio The Representational Portfolio is a marketing tool which job developers can use to represent job seekers to employers by making presentations on their behalf. The Portfolio is a pictorial representation of the individual’s contributions and capabilities. The Portfolio is comprised of two components. The first half of the Portfolio introduces the concept of Customized Employment to the employer, thereby paving the way for the job developer to negotiate the terms of employment to meet the individual’s necessary or ideal conditions to be successful. The second half of the Portfolio introduces the job seeker and shares information about their potential contributions to an employer through narrative and pictures. The information which is in the Portfolio is the information which was gathered during Discovery, captured in the Profile, and summarized in the Employment Planning meeting.
See more information and resources at: Representational Portfolio
Social Security Work Incentives Another major component of the Individualized Career Planning Model is the incorporation of Social Security Work Incentives, such as PASS plans, into transition planning. SSA Work Incentives can be utilized to: fund supports which augment what schools and/or agencies are providing for the individual's employment; fund employment supports which are unavailable to a student between the time they graduate from school and begin receiving services from adult agencies; or fund tools, equipment or services needed for a student to begin their own business.
To be eligible for a PASS plan a student must be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is income and disability based, and have countable income that is reducing their SSI payment below the Federal Benefit rate of $698/month (2012). At age 14 or younger if possible, Social Security Benefits Analyses are completed to identify whether or not the students participating in project implementation sites are eligible for Social Security Work Incentives such as a PASS plan. If the student is eligible, support is provided for the family to write a PASS plan if they choose. In some cases a student could become eligible for a PASS plan and SSI simultaneously by sheltering parent income in the PASS.
The model recommends that the Benefits Analyses are reviewed annually at the student’s IEP or whenever there is a change which could impact their eligibility for SSA benefits such as: a parent retires, becomes disabled or dies; the student’s income, parents’ income, or family composition changes; or the student turns 18 or is about to exit school. Having access to funds such as a PASS plan can encourage the family and student to be more creative in transition planning and in envisioning the student’s future.
See more information and resources at: SSA Work Incentives
Government Employment Support
Social Security Programs
Ticket to Work Program
The Ticket to Work program is a program from the Social Security Administration for those who receive SSDI or SSI due to a disability, providing beneficiaries with more choices for receiving employment services. Under the Ticket to Work program, the Social Security Administration (SSA) gives tickets to eligible beneficiaries who may assign those tickets to an Employment Network (EN) of their choice to obtain employment services, vocational rehabilitation services, or other support services necessary to achieve a vocational (work) goal. To determine the EN in your region contact Maximus at 1-866-968-7842 (1-866-YOURTICKET) or 1-866-833-2967 TTY (1-866-TDD 2 WORK) or at their website Ticket To Work Program Overview. To link directly to ENs in your state, see Find Help in Your State. ENs, if they accept the ticket, will coordinate and provide appropriate services to help the beneficiary find and maintain employment. One can receive extended health care coverage, protection from Continuing Medical Reviews while "Ticket" is in use, more money, and reinstatement of benefits if you can no longer work. Find more information about the Ticket to Work program refer to www.yourtickettowork.com or Employment Networks in Social Security's Ticket to Work Program. You may also contact your local OVR District office, or call 1-800-257-4232.
For a list of Ticket to Work Employment Networks, refer to the Ticket to Work website at Ticket to Work Directory
Latest "TEN" (Training and Employment Notice) on Ticket to Work changes at http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEN/TEN6-11.pdf.
Special rules make it possible for people with disabilities receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly payments and Medicare or Medicaid. Social Security calls these rules "work incentives." Work Incentives include, but are not limited, the Plan to Achieve Self- Support (PASS), Trial work periods (TWP) and the Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE). SSA Work Incentives are available to all beneficiaries regardless of the source of their employment services. For more information, see What is a Work Incentive?
Continued Medicaid Eligibility:
Part of the Social Security Act also provides protection for individuals that want to work and maintain their Medicaid eligibility. In order to qualify for continuing Medicaid coverage, a person must either:
A. Have been eligible for an SSI cash payment for at least 1 month
B. Still meet the disability requirement
Still meet all other non-disability SSI requirements
Still need Medicaid benefits to continue working
and have total earnings that are insufficient to replace SSI, Medicaid, and publicly funded attendant care services. Total earnings are determined based on a specific state threshold (In 2011, the total earning threshold in PA is $29,410).
Working for the Federal Government
Schedule A is a hiring authority available to federal agencies to promote the hiring of individuals with disabilities without competing the job. Agencies can use schedule A to avoid the often lengthy hiring process. For tips on how to apply for Schedule A jobs click here.
To help increase federal hiring of people with disabilities, the Chief Human Capital Officer Council developed a list of people with disabilities who are seeking jobs in a number of professions. The OPM Chief Human Capital Officers’ Shared List of People with Disabilities is a database of candidates with disabilities who are eligible to apply for employment through the Schedule A hiring authority for people with intellectual disabilities, severe physical disabilities or psychiatric disabilities. Please see the sample Schedule A letters. This service is provided for free to all Federal agencies. Job seekers with disabilities can learn more about this opportunity at benderconsult.com. Interested job seekers with disabilities may submit resumes to Bender Consulting Services via e-mail at email@example.com or online at http://www.benderconsult.com/careers/submit-resume.
Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP)
The Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities (WRP) is a recruitment and referral program that connects federal and private sector employers nationwide with highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer or permanent jobs.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Defense's Office of Diversity Management & Equal Opportunity (ODMEO) manage the program, which continues to be successful with the participation of many other federal agencies and sub-agencies. More than 20 Federal agencies regularly utilize the WRP as a recruiting source for both summer internships and permanent jobs, with more than 6,000 students obtaining employment through the program since 1995.
Please see the ODEP's website for more information at Workforce Recruitment Program.
Tax Credits for Hiring People with Disabilities
Employers can apply for three different tax incentive programs that are intended to encourage hiring qualified people with disabilities and to cover certain costs associated with providing accommodations.
Through the Small Business Tax Credit: IRS Code Section 44, Disabled Access Credit, certain small businesses may take an annual tax credit for making their businesses accessible to persons with disabilities. The amount is based on a company's expenditures and has a maximum benefit of $5,000, which is subtracted from the total tax liability. For more information on what expenditures are covered and how to make a claim, contact the Office of Associate Counsel, IRS, Passthrough and Special Industries at 202-622-3110.
Businesses may take an annual deduction for expenses incurred to remove physical, structural, and transportation barriers for persons with disabilities at the workplace with the Architectural/Transportation Tax Deduction: IRS Code Section 190, Barrier Removal. This takes the form of a tax deduction of up to $15,000 a year for expenses incurred to remove barriers for persons with disabilities. For more information on what expenditures are covered and how to make a claim, contact the Office of Associate Counsel, IRS, Passthrough and Special Industries at 202-622-3110.
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) provides a tax credit for employers who hire certain targeted low-income groups, including SSI recipients or certified vocational rehabilitation (VR) referrals. The local State Employment Security Agency (SESA) provides the WOTC certification. For more information on how this program works, consult the U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration.
Employers should also check with state, county and municipal agencies to determine if these entities provide tax incentives for employing people with disabilities.
Project SEARCH is an employer-based internship program that provides young adults with disabilities on-the-job training through real work experiences. Competitive employment in an integrated setting is the goal of a Project SEARCH internship. The Project SEARCH model was developed at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital and can now be found at many locations across the US. For more information see projectsearch.us.