Ongoing Employment Support Needs
Securing on-the-job support might be necessary as the student or youth with disabilities enters a new job or position. Securing on-the-job support for an extended length of time will require planning and problem-solving. As a team, identify potential ongoing supports, yet do not rely on that permanent support to be the service of a paid job coach!
Employment support services funded through Medicaid or by Vocational Rehabilitation agencies are intended to be time-limited. The purpose of these services is to support a person to prepare for a job, locate appropriate employment, transition into the job, learn needed job-specific skills, and other types of initial employment issues that may need to be addressed for successful employment. The length of time that these services are available depends on individual needs. Sometimes this is only weeks. Sometimes months. Occasionally it may stretch to years. However, in most situations, agency services are not ongoing.
Ideally, individuals will require less support as they learn the job, the physical environment, the social environment and other aspects of the workplace. However, there are times when a person will need some level of ongoing support to maintain the desired employment. A frequent concern for students and youth with disabilities is that the agency supports will end before the person is able to navigate the workplace independently. As this is a valid concern, early planning and proactive discussions with a team are critical to identifying a variety of support strategies to address needs as the person enters the job. Review the following Tips for Teams to help develop a plan and locate resources when ongoing employment supports are likely to be needed.
Tips For When Ongoing Support is Likely
During the school years, transition teams should come together by age 14 to begin identifying future adult life goals and the skills, knowledge and experiences needed to achieve those goals. This is referred to as ‘Backwards Planning’. This process includes the discussion of resources for ongoing support should it be needed.
Begin Discussions Early.
As part of the Backwards Planning process, team members should identify the potential need for extended support and raise the concern with the group. Do not wait until the initial support is no longer available. Identify possible strategies that may address the need and potentially lessen the need for extensive ongoing support.
Identify the Need.
All too often people rush into a discussion of ‘service’ prior to describing the need or barrier to employment. Assure the need has been adequately articulated and then discuss the possible services or supports (formal and informal) that could meet the need. For example: A checklist of supplies to start the day can replace the need of a job coach telling the person what to gather to begin a task.
Explore All Possibilities.
The answer to a need may have multiple solutions. Some support may come from a formal agency service while another strategy may be more informal in nature. For example, for the individual to remember how to navigate the social environment of the workplace, the formal service may include the agency job coach, however a co-worker may be added as a trusted colleague to offer gentle reminders and options.
Support options in the future are growing due to the ever-expanding opportunities available through advances in technology. For example, training the individual to use technology may be a viable alternative to a job coach offering direction. Use of Facetime for virtual job coaching may be effective. Using an app on a Smartphone to set reminders may be used in place of the prompts and direction of a job coach (or other person).
Agency Services for Long-Term Employment Support
Agencies services for employment are not intended to be a lifelong service. In addition, most agencies are not able to offer support for all people. Individuals must first apply for agency support and be found eligible in order to receive services. Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) focuses solely on supporting people to achieve employment by providing access to a variety of employment services and support; however, these services are intended to be time-limited. Ohio Job and Family Services (ODJFS) offers employment assistance that can serve a large population of citizens; however, the range of services and length of time available are limited. Even the employment services from a Medicaid Waiver accessed through a County Board of Developmental Disabilities (CBDD) has limitations.
Individuals and families should expect decisions about service to be made with the agencies in a person centered planning (PCP) process. Within the PCP process, the team strives to determine how much support, what type of support and the length of time that will meet the need and lead to employment success. It is most helpful to bring meaningful data and information to the discussion in order to help the team make decisions. In some situations, agency services may be able to meet some, but not all, of the need. Additional resources may be necessary which again underscores the importance of beginning early and thinking innovatively about how needs can be met when an individual may require ongoing support.