Tips for Employers: Working with Employees with ASD Part 2

>>WHITNEY HAM: Hi, I’m here today with Alissa
Brooke. We work
with the VCU Research and Training Center. We’re here today to present
on Tips for Employers Work with Employees with Autism Spectrum
Disorder, part two of a two-part presentation. Part one, we talked
about introducing autism and skills and abilities. Today we’re going
to talk about the second half of what it could be like to hire an
individual with autism, some of the supports you have in place, and
also introduce a valuable resource, somebody called a job coach. So, first, after part one you might be interested
in hiring somebody with autism to come to your workforce. These are just some
really — this is not an exhaustive list, just some basic steps that
you could consider if you are interested in hiring an individual with
a disability, specifically someone with autism, or any type of
disability. First, you could reach out to employer services
organizations. VCU Business Connections. We have their website on
the last page of this presentation. Employer service organizations
work with individuals with disabilities to help them to find
employment, and also not only to find employment, but also to support
them once they have found the right job match. And we’re going to be getting into a lot more
specifics on that in a few minutes. You could also sign up for their awareness
training. We’ll have resources for that on the last
page of this presentation. But we have free online diversity awareness
trainings, or you could also contact an employer services organization
and they would be happy to come to your place of business and
provide disability awareness training. And what’s really neat about those is that
sometimes you can event get continuing education credits for
receiving trainings like that in the workplace. You could also start to network with local
community service agencies, vocational rehabilitation agencies,
this can get very convoluted. Oftentimes, provide any sort of funding to
employment service organizations and also to support
the individual with disabilities as they’re entering the workforce
and receiving any training that they’re going to need to be
successful in the workplace. Community service boards also work with individuals
with disabilities and would be able to provide
access to employment services. And finally, local school systems. We talked a little bit about this in part
one, but there are currently lots of federal initiatives and
funding being directed to support vocational rehabilitation agencies
to support students with disabilities to enter into work rather than
other types of segregated settings. And also, you can communicate with an employment
specialist. It is our job to go out into the community
and actually contact you before you need to contact us
to start to find jobs for individuals with disabilities.>>ALISSA BROOKE: The term employment specialist
is one we use, but we said job coach. You’ll hear us say some things interchangeably. Employment specialist, job coach, sometimes
a consultant or a job developer as well.>>WHITNEY HAM: I think job coach refers to
how long Alissa and I have been in the field. That’s what we started using when we got
started. Here we’re going to talk — a brief definition
of supported employment. And in general, when you work with individuals
with disabilities, this is the service they will
receive to enter the workforce. Supported employment supports individuals
with disabilities to obtain real work for real
pay — obtaining competitive work in integrated settings. That means that individuals
with disabilities are just as likely to interact with an individual
with a disability as an individual without a disability. They have access to positions where they will
earn ideally more than minimum wage and also have access to
promotions and advancements in the workforce. Supported employment was designed for individuals
with significant disabilities with no or intermittent work
histories, and who because of the nature of their disability, need
ongoing support services in order to ensure success. That doesn’t
necessarily sound like a winning combination for somebody that you
want coming into your workforce, but if you listen to part one you’ll
see there really are tons of benefits. And we didn’t even talk about
all of them, to hiring individuals with disabilities. And as we start to talk about a job coach,
there are lots of supports to not only support you as an employer,
but also the individual with the disability. In some of the stages of supported
employment that a job coach supports employers and also individuals
with disabilities with are the job search, finding the job, training
on the job, supporting the individual and the employer to ensure
retention, and all of this is provided by an employment specialist. So now we’re going to — here we have the
term job coach. We
also talk about employment specialist, employment consultant or job
developer. These are some of the many hats that a job
coach can wear. And I think it’s important to say that all
of these different roles that a job coach can provide not only serve
and support the individual with a disability, but they are also roles
that support you as an employer as you are onboarding an individual
with a disability to enter into your workforce. First, a job coach can be considered a
planner. They support the customer to develop their
profile, their interests and abilities, start to plan out
what that job search is going to look like. And then they can perform a similar role within
your organization to start to plan out what this job — what the tasks
and schedule are going to look like, things like that. A job coach
is a consultant, a resource for you to go to when you have questions
about working with individuals with disabilities, about what type
of an employee, what type of skills and abilities would be a good
fit after they’ve met with you to identify what your needs are as
an employer, what needs and tasks aren’t being met currently within
your organization that they have somebody that will be able to fulfill
that role. We also — we’re kind of like head hunters. We typically have —
it can be anywhere from a small client pool to a large client pool
of individuals that we have taken the time with to learn their skills,
their abilities, identify their motivations, what their career
aspirations are, and then we also spent the time getting to know the
community and the businesses within the community and identifying
what their needs are. And then we start to make that match and develop
those relationships. We can also be technicians. Alissa and I are not the most
tech-savvy technicians, but we have resources for that. We work with
the employees. The goal is for the individuals to integrate
into the workforce as fully as possible. And sometimes individuals with autism
and disabilities need certain compensatory strategies or extra
supports in order to do that. It can be a visual support, a visual
schedule. Sometimes they’re on their phones or their
iPads so they’re not very apparent to other individuals. But we are responsible for
working with you guys to find out what you need to get done and then
developing any types of supports that the individual needs to perform
that job to their expectations. And then finally, a job coach can also be
a community resource for disability awareness training, diversity
initiatives, any sort of presentations that you — we do lunch and
learns, meet and greets to introduce what we do, what our organization
does, and also introduce some of our individuals with disabilities
who are looking for employment. Do you have anything to add to those roles?>>ALISSA BROOKE: Not necessarily. When you were talking about
being a head hunter, we do have a large client pool and I think so
much of the — making a good job match is just one of the most
important things. We’re really not looking to find somebody. We don’t
have one individual that we’re working with and just trying to fit
them into a business just so that they can get a job. We want to make
sure that we’re making a good match for that person’s skills,
personality, the type of environment that they’re looking for. So
it’s going to be a major benefit to you for us to understand what
your business needs are in the first place.>>WHITNEY HAM: And what the hiring process
can look like — these steps are not necessarily in order. They can go out of order
depending on how the relationship between the job coach, the
individual with the disability, and the employer looks like and how
it got started. But in general, one of the first things you’re
going to do is meet with an employment specialist
where you’re going to see a lot of those roles that we talked about
in the previous slide come into play. They’re going to sit down with you. They might do a lot of question sessions about
what your business does, learn more about what you need, what
jobs aren’t getting done, what you need more of in the workplace in
order to have a more successful business. They will also, through this meeting, start
to identify and discuss potential needs that
you may have.>>ALISSA BROOKE: And the meeting may not
just be a meeting. It might not be a sit-down. One of the most effective ways is for
us to have a conversation and then get up and walk around the business
and ask questions. Who does that? And maybe we can help identify some
needs that you may not even have been aware of.>>WHITNEY HAM: We will also start to — depending
on how the meeting is going — discuss meeting a potential
applicant or individual that we have in mind in order to
meet your needs. This
doesn’t always look like a formal interview. It could be an informal
conversation, where maybe we decide to bring the individual by to
take a tour of your business, just like we had done with you. Or maybe
it’s a working interview where we bring the individual in to
demonstrate some of their skills and abilities. And sometimes it’s
a job shadow. Sometimes it’s just an informational interview. So this
initial meeting can look very different depending on the
relationship. It’s an individualized process. At some point in time the
application process begins. Sometimes the application has already
been put in to the business, and sometimes we put the application
in after we have met with you as the employer. And then the onboarding
process will begin. Typically the process for an individual with
a disability looks just the same as for any
other typically developing individual that you’re going to be hiring
into your business. Now,
what is different is that you have some extra resources to support
you with this process.>>ALISSA BROOKE: That resource would be the
employment specialist. What might be different about working with
an individual with a disability? We highlight the employment specialist as
probably the number one difference that you’re going
to see. Typically, the
employment specialist is going to meet the employer first and begin
to develop that relationship so we understand your business needs,
so we can find somebody who’s going to be a good fit to satisfy those
needs. The employment specialist, as Whitney said
before, has two customers, two clients. While we are working with the individual with
a disability, just as important, we are working with the business. We want to satisfy both of your needs. An employment specialist,
as Whitney said, may assist in the interview and the application
process. Some people who have a job coach prefer not
to have the job coach sit in on the interview process. So we can’t say a blanket
statement that the job coach is always going to sit in the interview,
but they probably will have some role, at least in the coordination
of the interview, if that’s the case. Again, the interview and application process
can look very different depending on the type of job that
it’s going to be and the individual that you’re working with. The wonderful thing about,
really, about doing a working interview is that the individual with
autism is able to demonstrate what their skills and abilities are. As we spoke about in the first webcast that
we did, or the first part of this, the people with autism have challenges
with social and communication. And so sitting down at a table and doing a
formal back and forth interview may really give you no
impression of the type of work and the type of employee that an individual
with autism can be. And how well they can do their job. Marketing and talking about
themselves can be really challenging. And so the employment
specialist often will try to suggest that they come in so that you
can actually meet them and they can demonstrate that, so you get a
real impression of how well they can be as an employee in your
organization. The employment specialist will support on
the job training. So now we’ve jumped from the application process
to being hired. With on the job training, the individual will
come into your business and will, you know, receive the typical
training, but the employment specialist will be there to support
that and provide any additional training that is needed. We’ll create any supports needed to facilitate
independence. Our goal as an employment specialist is not
to be an extra person in your business. Our goal is to get out of there as quickly
as possible, but only when the individual and
the employer are ready for us to be gone. So we get in there and from day one we’re
thinking how can we help this individual to be independent
at work and to satisfy, you know, their job needs and meet
the expectations of the employer. So we will create any supports in order for
that person to do that, whether it’s a schedule, or a
visual tool. Sometimes our
visual tools are how to do the job sometimes our tools or videos may
be about appropriate social interactions to have in the workplace,
and appropriate behavior, who to ask questions to, understanding the
social hierarchy, that you don’t go to the owner of the business if
you have a question, but maybe you have to go to your coworker first,
and then a manager. We can teach things like that. We are very focused, as the
employment specialist, on the long-term relationship. The job
coach — it’s our goal to get out of there, but we’re never really
gone. That’s a benefit of supported employment,
is that the job coach will continue to support the individual and
the employer for the duration of that individual’s employment there. We will continue to
check in at least two times a month, whether it’s in person or by
phone. We will discuss with the employer and the
individual what their preferences are. We are able to come back in and monitor performance,
troubleshoot if there are any issues. Our main goal is retention. I started to touch on what else can
a job coach help with. Diversity training and awareness to existing
staff. We can come in upfront and do that, even before
you have hired somebody. But when you hire somebody with autism, we
can also come back in and do more specific — individual-specific
training. We’re
going to talk to that person about their disclosure preferences, but
we will teach you as much as we’re able to teach you about the best
ways to work with that specific individual. We can troubleshoot. If
everything is off to a great start and the job coach begins to fade
out of the job site, but problems begin to arise, call us. We come back in and we help put other additional
supports or have conversations to rectify whatever the
challenge was. We can help
the individual coordinate transportation. Many of the people that
we work with do not have their driver’s licenses, or drive themselves
to work. We can work with that person to make sure
that they have a dependable ride, get there on time, public
transportation, coordinating that with family, whoever’s providing
the transportation. We can develop a work schedule and identify
the tasks the person will complete in the workplace. We often take a list of tasks that may have
no structure, and we structure them and put them into a schedule. One person that we
work with, his job is to — part of his job is to check the faxes,
and to distribute them to the appropriate person in the office that
he works in. When we first started to work with him this
was really challenging. He would check the faxes one time in the day
and feel like he was done. So we created a schedule for him. We put on his
phone an alarm, every 25 minutes or whatever, to check the faxes. So we can structure something that is seemingly
unstructured. We can also assist with any education or training
for the employee with a disability. We understand that many businesses have
continuing eds or yearly trainings that need to be done, whether
they’re computer trainings or whatever they are. We’re able to assist
with that and to facilitate the conversation and the communication
when it’s time for yearly evaluations and things like that as well. We just wanted to share one case study of
an individual with autism who was hired into a workplace. In this particular case, this
business had an interest in starting a recycling initiative. They
wanted to go green. And they didn’t have an existing position,
but they reached out to an employment specialist
and said we really feel like this would be a great role for somebody
that you work with to come in and satisfy within our business. So the job coach, pretty
much following that list that Whitney shared, initially met with the
green team, found out what they would like. They wanted their
recycling cans and batteries to be picked up throughout the entire
organization, which had seven floors, really large organization. And so first we met with them, determined
what their business needs were, what the job might look like. Then we went back to our
pool of individuals we work with to say who would do well with this. In multiple offices, that’s a somewhat social
person. You need to
be organized. You need to be able to work independently,
orient around a large building. We went back to our pool and found somebody
who we thought would satisfy that need. We helped the business because
this position didn’t already exist. We helped the business lay out
what that new job description would look like. Once that was done, we were able to help that
individual apply for the job, interview, which was a working
interview. He got to try
it out, make sure that he would like it and the employer would like
it and him. And then we were able to help him get trained
once he was hired on the job. The person you see there, we’ll call him Craig. That is him at work. The bottom part of his cart has all of the
recycling and the top part looks like all of the batteries, which
he had to pick up. So on the right-hand side I acknowledge that
it’s pretty small, but we wanted to show you here
that the job coach created a tool — like we were talking about, a schedule. At the top you see a blue symbol to show this
is the recycling cans that you need to pick up and a green
symbol to show the batteries. We broke it down. We tore throughout that entire building, put
recycling cans where they needed to be, educated the staff that they
were supposed to put their recycling in those cans, and made this
checklist so the individual could very systematically go about his
work each day and keep track of what he was able to get done. So,
again, a very unstructured position. We really helped them to
develop. And it really helped to satisfy a need for
them.>>WHITNEY HAM: And it was a win-win situation. It was a great
job match for the individual with the disability who had these skills
that Alissa was mentioning, but also for the business, they were
getting dinged because of the amount of waste that was being sent
to trash centers in the area, and also the amount of inappropriate
waste that was being sent to the wrong places. And then they were
also able to receive — I believe some federal money for initiating
this going greener, recycling initiative. This is where you start
to think about how it’s a win for the individual with the disability,
and a win for the business. They’re receiving an individual with these
great skill sets and it really helps them to meet their bottom line
and run more efficiently.>>ALISSA BROOKE: Good point.>>WHITNEY HAM: Thanks for joining us for
part two of educating employers and working with individuals with
autism in the workplace. Thanks.

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