Preparing for the Transition from School to Supported Employment: 


Information for Parents about the Adult Service System


Prepared by:

University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

Employment Training Program

CHDD, Box 357920

Seattle, Washington  98195


Pat Brown, Director

Employment Specialists:

Scott Heartfield

Susan Loggins

Kim Selving

Gary Sheffler

Peter Simonson


Lee Olson, Program Coordinator

Bonnie K. Lowes, Program Operations Coordinator

Comments or questions about this publication may be directed to:

Pat Brown, Ed.D.

Employment Training Program

University of Washington

(206) 543-6387


Dear Parent:


The transition from school to supported employment is a major step for your son or daughter and for you. This information is a brief summary of our 20 years of experience working with adults with developmental disabilities who benefit from supported employment and over 10 years of experience in working with adolescents as they transition from school to adult life.  Although this booklet is not intended to be comprehensive, we hope that you find this introductory information useful.

University of Washington


Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

Employment Training Program

CHDD, Box 357920

Seattle, Washington  98195

(206) 543-6387

(206) 543-4779 (fax)












The Staff of the Employment Training Program


Before age 18

1.      Gather information about guardianships.


1.      Gather information about guardianships

A guardianship is the “legal power to care for another person and manage his or her affairs. Each state has its own specific laws on guardianship, but the following generally describes the guardianship laws for adults throughout the United States:

Guardianship is a legal, not medical determination. When people become adults -- including people with mental retardation --they get all the legal rights and responsibilities of any adult. Only the courts have the authority to remove these rights. A court makes this decision based on the person's abilities to handle personal decisions, money, property and similar matters. The incapacity (or legal inability) to handle these matters is grounds for a guardianship, not mental retardation” (National ARC).  For more information, contact:

·        The Arc of the United States, 500 East Border Street, Suite 300, Arlington, Texas 76010, (817)261-6003 (Voice); (817)277-3491 (FAX), (817)277-0553 TDD; (e-mail) or your local chapter of ARC.

·        In addition, these websites may be helpful: and

2.      Discuss work experiences with school personnel and your son or daughter

2.      Discuss community-based vocational experiences with school personnel and your son or daughter

Community-based vocational experiences provide training in integrated community work settings and result in many benefits.  These include: providing students with experiences in order for them to make informed choices concerning employment after graduation and increasing awareness and expectations of students with severe disabilities by you, your son or daughter, and by employers in your community.

For more information about community-based vocational experiences, contact:

·        Seattle University’s Center for Change in Transition Services

·        OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction)/ Special Education at (360) 725-6075 or visit their website at

·        the Pacer Center website at


Age 18-19

3.      Talk with your DDD case manager

3.      Talk with your DDD casemanager

The State Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) assists people with developmental disabilities and children ages birth to three with developmental delays. State DDD determines eligibility and provides case management, family support, and residential services.

For information about eligibility for DDD services, call your regional DDD office (go to: for a complete listing of DDD regional offices or call the Central Office in Olympia at 360-902-8444; TTY: 360-902-8455; FAX: 360-902-8482).

4.      Gather information about the DD services in your county

4.      Gather information about the DD services in your county

Your county Division of Developmental Disabilities (DD) contracts with the state DDD to provide services to people with developmental disabilities.  These services typically include employment services and community access services.  Employment services may include:

·        Specialized Industries.  Specialized industries are more commonly called sheltered workshop employment. It is designed to hire persons with significant disabilities who would not otherwise be employed. The workers are usually paid on a piece rate basis.

·        Group Supported Employment (GSE). The employment of individuals with disabilities on community based sites in groups of no more than eight individuals is called group supported employment. The most common form of GSE is contract janitorial or landscaping work performed at business sites throughout the community through a subcontract with the employer agency. The service is designed to serve people with significant disabilities who need direct supervision and training to sustain employment.

An enclave is another form of GSE. In this arrangement, a business hires a group of workers with disabilities to work as a unit within the business.


Age 18-19

5.      Gather information about the DD services in your county (continued)

4.   Gather information about the DD services in your county (continued)

·        Individual Supported Employment. This program supports competitive employment for individuals with disabilities in integrated business settings, for comparable wages, typically within the community. Agencies develop or locate jobs, place individuals in those jobs, provide training on the job site, and supply follow-up technical assistance and long-term supports to the individual and business as required to maintain employment.

·        Community access services began as part of the community-based, inclusionary trend of recent years. Community access services assist people with disabilities to gain access to community activities in which people without disabilities also participate. These services may include planned activities, special assistance, advocacy and education that is individualized to address the growth and interaction needs and desires of persons with disabilities. Individuals are assisted in identifying their own interests and exploring their community in personally meaningful ways.

For information about county DD services,

·        Call your local County DD office (see Attachment 2 for a complete listing in Washington State).

·        Visit the DDC (Developmental Disabilities Council) website at or

·        for King County, visit their website at


Age 18-19

6.      Talk with the DVR counselor working with your son or daughter’s high school

5.      Talk with the DVR counselor assigned to your son or daughter’s high school about DVR services

The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) either provides employment services to individuals with disabilities or contracts with Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs), also sometimes referred to as employment vendors, to provide the needed services.  A DVR counselor makes the initial contact with teachers and students preparing to exit, or graduate, from public school.

For more information about DVR services, including the name of the counselor assigned to your son or daughter’s high school, contact your local DVR office (a complete listing of regional offices is included in Attachment 3).

7.      Gather information about Social Security

6.      Gather information about Social Security

Social Security provides several different types of benefits, including:

·        “Disability Benefits.  Benefits are payable at any age to people who have enough Social Security credits and who have a severe physical or mental impairment that is expected to prevent them from doing "substantial" work for a year or more or who have a condition that is expected to result in death.” (Social Security Administration)

·        “Family Benefits.  If you are eligible for retirement or disability benefits, other members of your family might receive benefits, too. These include…your children if they are unmarried and under age 18, under 19 but still in school or 18 or older but disabled.” (Social Security Administration)

For more information about Social Security,

·      call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or

·      visit their website at (especially the Youthlink information).  The Red Book on Work Incentives for People with Disabilities has lots of very useful information. You can download this publication (using Adobe Acrobat) from

·      The Seattle region also has a homepage at


Age 20-21

8.      Complete application for DVR services

7.      Complete application for DVR services*

The application process for DVR services helps the counselor to establish your son or daughter’s eligibility for services.  This process may include: 

·        An introduction and orientation to DVR services

·        An information exchange, including a release of information form so that the school may send appropriate records to the DVR counselor

·        An individual meeting between you, your son or daughter, and the DVR counselor to discuss future plans.

·        Completing any additional required paperwork

·        A completed financial aid form (available from the high school counseling center)

*Typically, this process is begun during the second semester of the second to last year of high school.

8.      Interview potential employment vendors

8.   Interview potential employment vendors

DVR and your county DD office provide employment services to individuals with disabilities through contracts with employment vendors.  These services may include job development, job training (using natural supports), long-term follow-up and advocacy.

For a list of employment vendors in your area, contact your county DD office (see # 3 above) or your local DVR office (go to: for a complete listing of DVR offices or call Toll free: 1-800-548-0946 Voice/TTY; Voice/TTY: (360) 438-7800
FAX: (360) 438-8954). For a list of DVR high school counselor liaisons, go to:

For general information about employment vendors, including some questions that you may want to ask during the interview process, see Attachment 1.


Attachment 1

Information about Vendors

Students with developmental disabilities transitioning from school into employment are often most successful with vendors that offer the full array of supported employment services. In King County, such services are generally based on some variation of the Job Coach Model and are expected to provide job development, on the job training, long term follow-up, and replacement services. Vendors are also expected to facilitate the development of natural supports at the work site.

The Job Coach Model

The key elements of a job coach model are:

1.      One-on-One Training. Vendor staff members provide services to the participant on a one on one basis. These staff members are generally called job coaches, employment specialists, job trainers, or employment coordinators.

2.      Job Development. The employment specialists are responsible for finding a job that meets the participants needs, preferences, and skill level. Your child or student should be able to visit the proposed site and accept or reject employment there. The more flexible your child or student can be about job location, hours, or tasks, the more likely that they will quickly find a good job match. It is important to discuss with the VRC and the employment specialist on which aspects of the job description you can be flexible.

3.      On the Job Training. Before the participant begins the job, the employment specialist will observe or perform the tasks the participant will need to learn. Often they develop a list of the steps required to perform each task. They may also pinpoint some possible trouble spots, or organize the way the participant will perform their job on a daily basis. This is called task analysis and job structuring.

Once the participant begins the job, the job coach is responsible for teaching the person to perform their daily tasks to the speed and quality standards of the work place. They also make sure the participant is meeting all their other work related obligations, such as arriving to work on time, interacting socially with coworkers and supervisors in an appropriate manner, and meeting the grooming standards of the work place. The employment specialist will also develop strategies for problem solving, such as appointing one coworker as a reference person when questions arise.

During this initial training period, the employment specialist will also will make sure that the participant can get to and from work independently, and that lines of communication are set up between the work site and the home. The participant should be as responsible for these links as their skill level will support.

4.      Natural Supports. Employment specialists use a set of training strategies called natural supports to ensure that neither the participants nor their coworkers become too dependent on the presence of the employment specialist. Some of the aspects of developing natural supports include:

·        Helping coworkers and supervisors relate to their new team member. As quickly as possible, supervisors are asked to assume their characteristic role of teaching and overseeing work performance. Some agencies prefer to discuss needed employment supports with coworkers before the participant begins the job.

·        Using rewards or consequences drawn from the standard procedures used for all employees.

·        Using the needs of the individual to determine the level of trainer support. When participants operate at their optimum level of independence from the very first day, patterns of self-reliance are more readily established.

·        Fading as quickly as possible (see below). However, before the job coach begins leaving, she should observe that there is a comfortable rapport established between the participant and the coworkers.

·        Consulting with the work place to help the employer trouble shoot any problems that arise, and providing on-site intervention during complex or crisis level situations.

5.      Fading. Once the participant can perform their tasks to the quality and speed standards of the work place, the job coach begins to leave the job site for increasingly longer lengths of time. This process is called fading. By fading slowly, the participant can increase the time they work independently, allowing them to build confidence on a series of small successes.

6.      Long term follow-up. After the individual is fully independent and the placement is considered stable, the job trainer continues to contact the worksite, but at increasingly greater intervals of time between contacts. This continues throughout employment and is called long term follow-up or follow-along.

As part of their contract, vendors are also expected to advocate for the same benefits such as raises, vacation time, and sick leave, as are received by coworkers. They may also advocate for promotions or acquiring new tasks requiring greater levels of skill and responsibility, if the participant expresses interest in this. If the participant loses his job, the vendor must offer replacement services or help coordinate alternative services at the request of the participant.

Quality Indicators for Supported Employment Vendors[1]

Supported employment services for people with developmental disabilities have evolved rapidly over the last quarter century. Today, there is general agreement on the underlying values which foster quality services. Vendors demonstrate their support these values, and strive to provide quality services, by including key elements in their services. We call these key elements quality indicators.

Programs with contracts or agreements from government agencies such as the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) or the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) will be required to meet the standards of those agencies in order to receive funding. These standards typically incorporate many of the indicators listed below.

Vendor develops job opportunities that incorporate the stated needs and expectations of the individual client with the values and expectations of the community at large.

·        Clients work in an integrated setting, with opportunities to socialize with co-workers both during and after work.

·        Vendor assures salary commensurate with others at work site doing comparable work.

·        Vendor finds jobs that offer benefits, the possibility of advancement, and pay increases.

·        Vendor training strategies promote independent job performance.

·        Vendor ensures that employer provides all necessary supervision.

·        Vendor draws on resources at the job site to develop appropriate supports for the individual client.

·        Vendor adjusts level of direct support to needs of specific client, readjusts level of support when client’s needs change.

·        Vendor can demonstrate a history of placements in a wide range of job types, salaries, and hours.

·        Vendor can demonstrate a marketing strategy that operates over a wide network of businesses, both public and private.

·        The client is advised of the current market trends when making employment decisions.

Services promote a dignified, respectful image of adults with developmental disabilities to the community at large.

·        Vendor’s promotional material presents a positive image of a person with a developmental disability as a valued employee.

·        Employment Specialists provide a positive role model for interacting with a person with a developmental disability in both public and private situations.

·        Vendor requires Employment Specialists to adhere to guidelines for acceptable behavior. Policies stipulate consequences for unacceptable behavior.

·        Vendor provides training and education in values based services and provides incentives for Employment Specialists to attend.

·        Training techniques, attitudes, and motivators are age appropriate unobtrusive, and compatible with client’s specific work environment.

·        Vendor has a reputation for supporting inclusion of people with a developmental disability in all arenas of community affairs.

Services clearly provide opportunities for client choice, for client participation in decision making, and for lodging and arbitrating client complaints

·        Vendor listens and responds to the expectations of the individual client.

·        Vendor elicits and is open to job leads from the client and members of their support group.

·        Decisions concerning the type of job pursued, location of job, hours/week, days worked, shift worked, pay range, etc. are made with direct input from the client and their designated representative.

·        Changes in any of these decisions are made with direct input from the client and their designated representative.

·        Client has an opportunity to view a potential job and accept or reject it.

·        Vendor has an established procedure to address complaints and arbitrate disagreements.

·        Vendor cooperates and interacts with a wide variety of community based employment providers.

Vendor individualizes services to the stated and assessed needs, interests, and abilities of their client with a developmental disability

·        Vendor provides services in a timely fashion.

·        Vendor creates a unique service plan for each client.

·        Vendor respects and encourages client choice and participation. Vendor can provide assessments of the client’s specific skill level, in real work situations, as appropriate.

·        Vendor’s tracking system differentiates and offers services in 5 main service areas: assessment, job development, placement, on-the-job training, and follow-up (including job replacement).

·        Vendor can offer multiple payment options and help coordinate the best option for the individual client.

·        Vendor works with individuals with a wide range of abilities.

·        Vendor’s caseload reflects the cultural, economic, and ethnic diversity of the community they serve.

The vendor’s organizational structures and procedures should reflect their awareness of valued services.

·        Vendor has an advisory board that includes employers, people with disabilities, parents/family members of people with disabilities and representatives of a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

·        Vendor has a written Mission Statement that reflects the idea that people with disabilities, from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, have a right to integrated, community-based employment when they can do the work.

·        Vendor maintains a tracking system for employment outcomes and reviews it frequently.

·        Vendor is involved with students before graduation from high school

·        Vendor encourages employers to provide evaluations of worker’s performance and feedback on vendor’s employment procedures.

·        Vendor offers in-service training for parents, families, and interested persons.

·        Vendor has access to specialized services necessary to accommodate cultural and ethnic diversity, such as interpreters.

·        Vendor has established outlets for outreach to ethnic and culturally diverse communities.

Choosing a vendor

Parents, teachers, or home support counselors usually become the spokesperson for the participant while choosing a vendor. It is useful to get together with your son or daughter, and perhaps their DVR counselor, to determine types of services that your son or daughter wants and needs from a vendor.

Some questions to consider

·        Are you looking for part time or full time employment?

·        To what areas of the county are you willing to travel?  What type of transportation will you be using?

·        What kind of benefits do you want, need?

·        Do you prefer to wait in order to find the best possible job match, or is it more important to start work right away?

·        Can you, or another person in your support community, provide job leads or participate in some of the employment activities?

·        How much money do you need to make?

·        Which area(s) represents your greatest strength: quality, speed, or cooperation with others?

·        Can you work independently?  Do you need supervision to work continuously and problem-solve adequately?

·        Can you be successful at a job that relies primarily on physical strength? Some academic skills? Some fine motor skills?

·        How important are social contacts at work to you?  Is socializing likely to interfere with your work performance?