Resource 3: Case Example for Strategy 2: On-the-Job Social Skills for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

What does the research say?

Supported employment, or the assistance of obtaining and maintaining employment for individuals with disabilities, resulted in 82 percent of participants obtaining employment (Wehman et al., 2012).

What's an example of this research-informed practice?

Wehman et al. examined the effects of supported employment in securing and maintaining competitive employment for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study followed 33 individuals with ASD in supported employment, working one on one with a job coach. Eighty-two percent of the individuals were able to obtain a job. The suggested reasons for the success were because the supported model and the skilled job coaches provided social supports and compensatory training strategies.

Specifically, job coaches supported individuals through four steps of an individualized supported employment model:

  1. Developing a profile and assessment of the individual. This step involves a variety of interviews, observations, and information-gathering activities aimed at capturing a picture of who the individual is and what his or her interests, skills, and desires are.
  2. Guiding the job development and career search. This step includes two activities: Identifying employment options and fields based upon the job seeker's interests, education, and abilities, and preparing an individual for interviews.
  3. Conducting job site training and support. This step involves supporting the individual in learning and adjusting to the workplace, routine, and responsibilities. As part of this, a job coach instructs the individual on the job activities, cueing, and setting up strategies for the individual to support him or herself.
  4. Designing long-term supports to promote job retention. These steps include both job-specific and community supports. Job supports include training, coordination, and job accommodations. Community supports include such things as housing, transportation, and financial support.

How can this be adapted to vocational rehabilitation settings?

In many cases, vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors are not able to provide supported employment; however, they are able to provide aspects of the supported employment module. For example:

  • Conducting a comprehensive assessment of the unique strengths, capabilities, interests, priorities, concerns, and whether supported employment would benefit the individual. This information will be used to determine the goals, objectives, nature, and scope of VR services. This may be a combination of the standard assessment plus additional open-ended questions to understand the goals and capabilities of the individual.
  • Assisting with finding a paid job in an integrated work environment.
  • Referring a client to a job coach.
  • Identifying challenges that may affect job retention, such as transportation and need for job accommodations; for the challenges, identifying how to address them, such as transportation options and job coaching for accommodations.

Resources Related to Supported Employment

  • Article (free): Wehman, P., Lau, S., Molinelli, A., Brooke, V., Thompson, K., Moore, C., & West, M. (2012). Supported employment for young adults with autism spectrum disorder: Preliminary data. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 37(3), 160–169. Retrieved from
  • New Hampshire-Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center and Westat [Internet]. Supported Employment Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) KIT. [cited 2017 Dec 18]. Technical material under contract number 280-00-8049 with Westat under contract number 270-03-6005, with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Available from
  • KTER Center’s Technical Brief #2 Benefits of Supported Employment for Workers with Intellectual Disabilities.


Next: Continue to Resource 4.