Employment and the Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Authentic Community Based Work Experience

Page 21 of 46

There is no substitute for real life experience!

The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) as well as the Ohio Longitudinal Transition Study (OLTS) has identified authentic work experience while in high school as one of the strongest predictors of successful post-school employment. This important predictor directs transition programs and services to include experience in community workplace settings as a significant element of a youth’s employment preparation while in high school.

These community-based work experiences are not random or casually selected. Instead they should be:

  • Aligned: Selected community experiences are meaningfully associated with the individual’s employment goals, the skills needed and the knowledge required.
  • Systematic: Organized in a manner that builds skills and knowledge and occurs at a frequency that allows the skills to develop systematically.
  • Supported: Includes the necessary supports and accommodations that allow the individual to access, meaningfully participate and develop skills and knowledge
  • Shared: Information gained from the experiences is useful for person-centered transition planning, age appropriate transition assessment and identification of services needs.

Features of authentic community based work experiences the student might participate in include:

  • Extended and intensive opportunities vs. brief, sporadic experiences
  • Work sampling
  • Community volunteer opportunities
  • Summer employment
  • Unpaid or paid internships and mentorships and apprenticeships
  • Job shadowing to learn more about careers and employment options
  • Community Based Instruction (CBI) vs. a casual “Field Trip”

Potential Barriers for Individuals with ASD As important as authentic community work experience is to career development, some individuals with ASD have limited opportunities while in high school because of sensory, social or communication challenges associated with ASD. School personnel and/or parents may feel they should avoid community work experiences out of fear that the student will not be able to navigate a community work environment. Or the student may resist situations where the unique accommodations needed are unrecognized or unavailable. For that reason, proactive supports and accommodations must be planned and provided.

Proactive strategies, thoughtful preparation and well-aligned supports can accommodate or minimize sensory, social, communication or cognitive challenges and allow students to gain necessary experience and skills. Upcoming sections of this guideline review specific strategies to consider when preparing the environment and the individual for the employment setting. Use of these and other strategies can open doors, improve success and expand opportunities in authentic community based work experiences.

One important resource that all youth with ASD should access are the Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) offered through the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD). These services focus on preparing youth to step into and benefit from valuable community employment experiences. Learn more about Pre-ETS here. Apply for Pre-ETS services on this same web page by downloading the application provided with the question, “How Do I Request Pre-Employment Transition Services?”

Page 21 of 46