Daniel has accomplished a lot these past months. He’s started a new job where he regularly engages in problem solving, makes decisions, and manages inventory and equipment. What’s equally as important is that, since joining the housekeeping staff at a local hotel, Daniel is part of a team. Known for his sense of humor and regular banter with his colleagues, Daniel has begun to build friendships and regularly swaps stories with his work pals about life outside of work.

Building social skills and vocational skills are both important parts of VIA’s supported employment program, which is focused on overcoming barriers to paid work for adults with autism and developmental disabilities. Daniel worked with his VIA job coach, Kate Gariepy, to identify the types of jobs he was interested in and go through the application and interview process. After a couple of successful interviews, Daniel made a list of pros and cons that helped him select his current job, which he loves.

VIA’s supported employment program is poised to grow. This job coaching model helps clients move through four stages:

  1. Situational Assessments: Typically, this involves starting with unpaid work experience in the community with the goal of increasing work stamina, practicing communication skills, and assessing clients’ abilities to perform various job duties.
  2. Job Development: Next, clients collaborate with their coach to figure out what type of work they’re interested in, develop their resume, fill out applications, practice interview skills, and even shop for appropriate interview clothes. Job coaches might attend interviews with clients to re-word questions and advocate on their behalf. There’s a common misconception that job coaches have access to a bank of jobs they can plug their clients into, but that isn’t the case. Job coaches work alongside their clients to apply through job boards, respond to help wanted signs, and other traditional ways of looking for work.
  3. Job Site Training: A coach will attend orientation and job shifts with the client for the first few weeks of employment in order to help reinforce training, write task lists, and assist with asking questions. The coach will begin to fade out after that initial period, spending less and less time on job shifts as the client becomes more comfortable in their job. The goal is for the client to work shifts independently without their coach after about six months.
  4. Long Term Support: Coaches then spend one to two hours per month with clients, following up and offering whatever support is needed for the duration of the job.

Daniel is in the job site training stage of the supported employment program. He’s largely independent in his work, and his job coach is gradually transitioning out of on-site support. We look forward to following along with Daniel as he moves into long term support and continues his career journey.

Potential supported employment clients should contact the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to determine eligibility for services and funding.
If you have additional questions about supported employment, email adultintakes@viacenters.org