Employment and the Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Casey's Path to Employment

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Casey’s story illustrates the potential that exists in Ohio when systems and practices work in tandem with youth and families.

Casey, a young man with autism spectrum order, began his transition to employment in his last years of high school. He participated in several career center activities and programs in an attempt to prepare him for future employment. However, Casey's difficulties with communication, socialization and change were not well accommodated in these programs and ended with Casey having few vocational options. Fortunately, his Path to Community Employment did not stop here. Instead, a well-matched set of strategies, supports and services resulted in meaningful employment. Learn more about Casey’s journey through the lens of the Core Principles.

Core Principle 1: Competitive, integrated employment is the expectation for all youth with disabilities

Casey’s school team, family, and County Board of Developmental Disabilities all believed that Casey could become employed in the community given the right match and the right supports. Even as options seemed to shrink, Casey and his team continued to focus on the outcome of community employment.

Core Principle 2: Transition planning for youth requires multi-agency collaboration

Several agencies were involved with Casey’s planning and success. The school coordinated the services and supports of the school with the County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, local employers and OCALI.

Core Principle 3: Early dialogue with individuals and families is critical to ensuring employment outcomes

Casey’s family had always promoted community membership and fostered opportunities for those experiences. Those early discussions fueled the later plans for employment.

Core Principle 4: There are multiple pathways to employment

When the career center path was not successful, Casey’s team worked to provide opportunities in the high school to develop his skills. Community experiences broadened his general knowledge and employability skills. Casey’s path took a unique turn when he landed an opportunity in a long-term grant-funded project at OCALI. This project lead to permanent employment at OCALI following graduation.

Core Principle 5: Person-centered planning is key to the development of effective services and supports for transition-age youth

Casey’s success was not because of luck. His team connected him to a variety of experiences and services in the high school years. However, when challenges occured, new strategies, supports and experiences were sought out and added to his person-centered plan that ultimately lead to community employment. This included reintroducing the local CBDD to the family to foster a relationship, teaching Casey to use visual supports to increase independence, and adding social strategies for workplace interactions.

At age 18, Casey was selected for an intense internship at supported by a DODD grant that provided assessment and designed an individualized integrated employment experience targeting his skills and interests, as well as providing the necessary supports. Over the course of two years, Casey required less support of the job coach and learned to use environmental/natural supports and technology to increase his independence and job completion. His job skills grew and expanded to include 15 separate tasks.

After the two-year internship, Casey is totally independent of the job coach and the vision for his employment future is a reality. Casey is now employed two days a week in the offices of OCALI and one day a week in a bakery. He travels independently to and from his work sites. Casey participates in OCALI’s multi-day, International conference, OCALICON where he is part of the OCALI team. He takes pride in his work and although Casey is a man of few words, his body language, facial expressions, and work ethic communicate the success he feels as part of the integrated workforce. Casey’s transformation was the result of systems working together, family involvement, and the use of individualized, evidence-based practices.

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