Employment Options: What to Look For and Lessons Learned


AbilityPath has spent a year conducting a national search on the best practices to date on various employment models for individuals with special needs. Below are the findings:

What to look for: key lessons learned

  • The programs only succeed if there is a tireless champion at the employer
  • The best programs involve collaboration between companies looking to hire and community organizations who identify and train potential employees
  • It needs to make business sense for the hiring organization, like:

    ◊ Good workers who are more productive
    ◊ Help your company meet compliance standards

  • Even the most successful programs are placing relatively  few people: a highly scalable model is yet to be developed

Health services jobs

  • Project Search, Cincinnati & across U.S.

    ◊ Training and internships for high school seniors
    ◊ At hospitals, on-site classrooms and on the job training
    ◊ Funded by school districts out of senior year budget
    ◊ Detail-oriented jobs like surgical set preparation, stocking drugs by bedsides

Medical and telecommunications jobs

  • Launchability, Dallas, Texas

    ◊ Pre-hire training program to make the developmentally special needs young adults competitive.
    ◊ Trains on specific work skills for specific jobs plus soft skills that keep them from interviewing well or doing the job

    · Embedded within the company, utilize existing employees as mentors
    · 5-6 week training to go into medical and telecommunications jobs

    ◊ State vocational rehabilitation pays for training

Service jobs in corporate setting

  • Microsoft, Supported Employment Program

    ◊ Real estate and facilities division: goal to hire 200 in Redmond, WA campus
    ◊ Partnering with Washington Initiative for Supported Employment
    ◊ Service jobs to be offered by Microsoft suppliers

    · Food service, transportation, mail, office relocation

    ◊ Collaborate with local disability organizations to recruit

Software testing jobs

  • Specialists Guild, San Francisco

    ◊ For young people in their 20’s on the autism spectrum
    ◊ Train, assess their abilities and give them real world experience to build a resume and get work
    ◊ When hired, can work from home if transportation or being in an office are problematic

  • Aspiritech, Highland  Park, Illinois

    ◊ Workshop that provides training to do technology work, software debugging, for young people with developmental disabilities who can’t function well onsite
    ◊ Combined project manager/coach/trainer model

    · Test  to see if they can work in a group setting
    · Creates a social context for the workers who work together, also improved quality because they collaborate as a team
    · They are a social enterprise, a non profit, but they are the employer who contracts with companies

  • Specialisterne, coming to Silicon Valley in 2014

    ◊ Adults on high functioning autism spectrum (37 total in Denmark)
    ◊ Identifying opportunities and placing consultants in companies
    ◊ Assessment via building Lego Robot, training, and placement in software testing and other detail work
    ◊ Assessment, training at Specialisterne offices; job placement on site

Software and game development jobs

  • Nonpareil, Plano, Texas

    ◊ Supports an exclusive segment of autism: could not make it in university environment, could not do calculus, and can’t get a standard programming degree
    ◊ College level education for IT programming, video graphics, gaming, and apps

    · The students become professional game and app designers
    · Design products that will sustain the organization
    · Their goal is some will work for Google or EA, some will work for non profits become professors there or do programming to sustain

    ◊ Looking to build a campus community where people can train, develop software and game products, either from campus or moving to companies, and perhaps teach new recruits. Want them to be able to live there if they choose