Employer- Based Skills Program

Youth with autism gain, keep jobs after employer-based skills program
Project SEARCH plus Autism Spectrum Disorder Supports

By VCU | August 22, 2018
Nearly all high school youth with autism spectrum disorder who participated in an intensive job skills program gained and maintained meaningful part-time employment after graduation, according to a study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Three months after graduation, 90 percent of the young people with autism who took part in the program acquired competitive, part-time jobs that paid between $9.53 and $10.66 an hour. A year after graduation, 87 percent of the participants still had their jobs.
Meanwhile, a control group of young people with autism who did not take part in the job skills program saw only 6 percent employed three months after graduation and only 12 percent employed after a year.

Ashton takes inventory at the NIH Project SEARCH site
“This is the first randomized clinical trial to show that if young people with significant autism, who have historically been unemployed at a very high level after high school (greater than 75 percent), receive a combination of nine months of immersion in a business setting internship, plus supports such as applied behavior analysis, that their chances for becoming competitively employed are much better than those who do not receive these services,” said Paul Wehman, Ph.D., director of both the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Successful Business Practices Leading to Employment of Persons with Disabilities and the VCU Autism Center for Excellence, who led the study.
The 90 percent retention rate of all of the employed persons at 12 months or longer is extremely encouraging.
The study, “Effects of an employer-based intervention on employment outcomes for youth with significant support needs due to autism,” was published in the April 1 edition of the journal Autism.
Wehman, a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the School of Medicine and in the Department of Counseling and Special Education in the School of Education, said the study shows definitively that there is a clear pathway to competitive employment for youth with autism who have traditionally been chronically unemployed.
“Jobs were found in many different health care [fields] and other settings,” Wehman said. “Furthermore, this study shows the clear-cut employment potential of youth with autism and also the receptivity of employers to hiring and retaining young individuals with autism.”
The researchers also found that the young people with autism who took part in the program found that the work provided them with an important therapeutic medium that helped make them more independent, and improved their social skills and self-esteem.
The program, called Project SEARCH plus Autism Spectrum Disorder Supports, was a nine-month, employer-based intervention that modified an existing high-school-to-work program called Project SEARCH that supports individuals with disabilities. The researchers built on Project SEARCH by incorporating the use of applied behavior analysis, which helps meet the extensive social, communication and behavioral needs of young people with autism.
“Each week, a behavioral consultant from our staff met with the onsite contact to debrief on specific situations/behaviors exhibited by the interns and assisted with developing plans to support those interns to minimize the interference of those behaviors in the workplace,” Wehman said. “Applied behavioral analysis techniques played an extremely important role in teaching new work behaviors and developing appropriate social skills.”
The study’s participants were 49 high-school-aged people between the ages of 18 and 21 years old who had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and were eligible for supported employment.
Graduates of the program now hold jobs at a number of employers in the Richmond area, as well as in south Hampton Roads. Locally, employers that have hired the graduates include Bon Secours, Lowe’s, Henrico County Public Schools, Hanover County Public Schools, Red Door Salon, Great Harvest, Kroger, Marriott, Gold’s Gym, Mango Salon and Hobby Lobby.
The Virginia Department of Rehabilitation Services and Aging provided support throughout the study, which laid the groundwork for a larger study, funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. That larger study aims to replicate the earlier findings with a larger sample, with more hospitals and school districts, and to develop a manual that would allow others around the country to replicate the findings.
The larger study is slated to finish later this year, Wehman said.
“We are extremely interested in seeing the efficacious impact of a nine-month (900 hours total) internship on the overall employment and social development of youth with autism coming out of school,” he said. “The implications are powerfully supportive of providing more and more employment type opportunities in the community when these youth are 15 to 17 years old.”
“We have found that most of these students have much more capacity than many people thought,” he added. “There are implications, not only for special education teacher practices, but also rehabilitation counselors and physicians who are examining the long-term work potential of youth with autism. Finally and perhaps most important, individuals with autism and their families should feel validated that their true skills, abilities and human potential is being displayed with the right help and support.”
In addition to Wehman, the study’s researchers included Carol M. Schall, Ph.D., co-director of the VCU Autism Center for Excellence and director of the Virginia Autism Resource Center; Jennifer McDonough, associate director of training at VCU-RRTC; Carolyn Graham, Ph.D., director of research at VCU-RRTC; Valerie Brooke, director of training at VCU-RRTC; Alissa Brooke, director of training and employment Services at VCU-RRTC; Whitney Ham, training and technical assistance associate at VCU-RRTC; Stephanie Lau, training associate at VCU-RRTC; Jaclyn Allen, employment specialist with VCU-RRTC; and Lauren Avellone, research associate with VCU-RRTC.
About VCU and VCU Health
This article originally appeared on the Virginia Commonwealth University News site here.
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 225 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Seventy-nine of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. The VCU Health brand represents the health sciences schools of VCU, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center and Level I trauma center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.

Girl Power Gatherings


Girl Power gatherings are for girls 10-18 yrs old. It gives them an opportunity to socialize and do crafts. This group was created due to personal experience.  While my daughter was growing up social outings were limited due to characteristics of Autism and anxiety.  During that time, many people did not understand Autism and the characteristics that accompanied it.  This group was designed for girls with Autism, anxiety, communication disorders, and typically developing to have a “safe space” to socialize and “be themselves”. My goal is to let the girls see how beautiful they are inside and out.

This group will begin with girls and later will incorporate boys in a separate group.

Cotton Top Crown, LLC

Congratulations Cotton Top Crown, LLC for being the business of the month in Obsessions jwwm Gift Shop.   The owner is Tekela and she has worked tirelessly to make her business successful. Recently, Tekela took the leap of faith and quit her job to devote time to her business full time.  Her products are natural and are quality. Feel free to come by Obsessions or go to Cotton Top Crowns, LLC website and take a look at her products you will be pleasantly surprised.

Burghalie Ensemble

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1. The act of unifying individuals of all races, nationalities, and ethnicities via fashion.
1. A place that does not discriminate and has apparel of great variety.
United States

Vision: To unify individuals and empower every person that has been involved in the foster care system by, enriching self-confidence through the means of fashion.

Upon participating in our class project, at Florida State University, we discovered that there are more than 14,000 children in the Florida Foster Care system. Through extensive research with foster care facilities in Tallahassee such as, Boys Town of North Florida and Children Homes Society, we discovered that each child is allotted roughly $200.00 a year to spend on clothing alone. Considering that the average price of tennis shoes is $72.00 and jeans roughly $28.00, this leaves each child with about $100 to spend on clothes over the course of 12 months. That is a little less than $9.00 a month, meaning if a child chose to spend that money on a shirt, he or she would have to wear that same shirt for 30 days. Keep in mind that this only includes shirts. Basic items such as underwear, socks, and other clothing necessities are excluded.
We not only decided to use this information, apply it to our lives, and make a difference. We also wanted to raise awareness, in order for others to be knowledgeable of the issue. A lot of people speak of making a difference, often times to kids in underdeveloped countries, but what about the kids in your backyard? As a clothing brand, we decided to incorporate a social aspect to our business infrastructure more formally known as the “One for One Plan.” The difference is, we want to make in impact in our community first, and as we continue to grow, hopefully to eliminate clothing issues for all foster kids in America!

Terrance Smith
Chief Executive Officer, Creative Director

Brandon Jones
Chief Opperating Officer, Director of Finances

Samuel Gelabert
Public Relations Executive, Human Resources Director

Welcome Llezor’s Designs

Intended for the modern person who has an active multi-faceted life. Handmade designs ranging from simple elegance to intricately weaved patterns, it is wearable art that is both unique and eye-catching.
Each piece is an original handmade creation using quality materials. Comprising of various combinations of semi-precious stones, metals, fused glass , lampwork beads, crystals, and pearls, my designs gives statement to any occasion and emphasis to any outfit. Stunningly versatile, each piece is capable of flowing from the office during the day, to the local Bistro for an afternoon chat, to dinner with that special someone.
It’s my belief in the philosophy that jewelry can be as essential to person’s well-being and self-image as their hair color, makeup or wardrobe. I strive to produce wearable art that attributes to a person’s state of being and promote a sense of confidence and enchantment.

Welcome – Cotton Top Crowns, LLC

Who I Am
Hi beautiful! My name is Tekela Miles, CEO and founder of Cotton Top Crowns, LLC. In March of 2015 I big chopped after transitioning for a year. From the beginning I knew I didn’t want to be a product junkie. I wanted a product with natural and organic ingredients to nourish my hair. I wanted to know exactly which ingredients were going on my hair. I searched in the stores for natural hair product lines that could deliver on being natural and organic. Then after vigorous research, I decided I wanted to make my own products using natural ingredients. I love the excitement of developing a recipe of ingredients and the pride I feel from making a product tailor made for me with all the things my hair loves. Not every product creation was a success. There was a lot of trial and error but I enjoy researching new ingredients and their benefits for my hair. Learning and understanding my hair helped me to develop a better hair routine along the way. I want to help encourage other naturals (and those transitioning) to incorporate natural ingredients into thier hair care routine. I’m very passionate about natural hair education and sharing useful information to others.