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Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models
for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
webcast 7 Print E-mail

Autism Society of North Carolina:
Effectively supporting employees with
 autism spectrum disorders

Tracey Sheriff – Chief Executive Officer
Jennifer Mahan – Director of Government Relations
Denise Ferguson – Director of Services
David Ingram – Regional Director

Date:  January 26, 2012, 3 p.m.- 4:00 p.m. CST

About the Webcast

Employment rates for people with disabilities are declining: people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are among the least likely to be employed. SEDL and partners on the National Advisory Panel of the Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models for Individuals with ASD project have identified programs that help increase competitive, long-term employment for people with ASD.

The Autism Society of North Carolina's (ASNC) is one such program. ASNC’s Supported Employment Program matches individuals with ASD to jobs that suit the individual's abilities and interests. By providing a reliable source of trained workers to businesses across North Carolina, ASNC saves business owners' time and money. ASNC's job placement specialists provide follow-up services and customized workplace consultation. The Supported Employment Program is based on the following principles:

  • Eligibility is based on consumer choice. Anyone with ASD in North Carolina can receive supported employment services.
  • Supported employment is integrated with treatment. Employment specialists coordinate plans with a treatment team including case managers, therapists, and psychiatrists.
  • Competitive employment is the goal.
  • Job search starts soon after a consumer expresses interest in working. There are no requirements for completing extensive pre-employment assessment and training or intermediate work experiences (like prevocational work units, transitional employment, or sheltered workshops).
  • Follow-along supports are continuous. Individualized supports to maintain employment continue as long as consumers want the assistance.

About the Presenters

Tracey Sheriff, Chief Executive Officer, Autism Society of North Carolina:
Prior to working with the Autism Society of North Carolina, Tracey worked with individuals with autism in residential setting and later provided supported employment services through Division TEACCH. In 1996, Tracey began his career with the ASNC as Community Services Coordinator. After serving for 3 years, he became Director of Community Services, overseeing all Medicaid services for the organization. By 2002, he was promoted to Director of Operations and soon after was named Chief Operating Officer in 2007. In May 2010, Tracey was appointed to Chief Executive Officer. Tracey is currently responsible for ASNC's day-to-day management and oversight and working with the organization's Board of Directors. He oversees a full-time staff of 150, 520 part-time employees, and approximately 30 seasonal employees who work in Camp Royall's year round programs. He received his Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Frostburg State University, his Master's degree in Administration from Central Michigan University, and a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University.

Jennifer Mahan, Director of Government Relations, Autism Society of North Carolina:
Jennifer began working at the Autism Society of North Carolina in 2010, and in her position there she supervises the organization's work on government relations, advocacy and chapters. Her writing on public policy issues related to autism can be found at under "Advocacy"/"Public Policy." Prior to this she worked for the Mental Health Association in North Carolina for ten years, holding the position of Director of Policy and Advocacy Initiatives from 2005-2010. Ms. Mahan has served as Chair of two large statewide advocacy coalitions: The Coalition, advocating for the needs of individuals with addictive disease, developmental disabilities and mental health disorders and The Covenant with North Carolina's Children, advocating for a broad range of issues affecting children and families. She has a background in consumer advocacy, information and referral programs, telephone crisis counseling, and human services policy focused on developmental disabilities, mental health, substance abuse, and low-income benefits programs. Ms. Mahan has a B.A. in Sociology from The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and one of these days should finish up her Master of Public Administration degree at UNC Chapel Hill.

David Ingram, Regional Service Director, Autism Society of North Carolina:
David began working with individuals with IDD through the Autism Society of North Carolina, in 2002, while simultaneously earning a Bachelors of Science in Psychology at the University of North Carolina. In 2005, David started up the Triangle Region's Vocational Program. Due to the success of the Vocational Program, The Autism Society of North Carolina chose Mr. Ingram as the Triangle Services Regional Director in 2008 with a span-of-control of 148 staff supporting over 100 individuals with ASD. Also in 2008, The North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities selected David as one of North Carolina's Top 40 Advancing Strong Leaders. He also serves on North Carolina's Alliance for Full Participation's (AFP) Steering Committee and co-drafted the North Carolina AFP's "Employment First" initiative in 2011

Denise Ferguson, Director of Services, Autism Society of North Carolina:
Prior to working with the Autism Society of North Carolina, Denise work with individuals who were dually diagnosed with MH/ IDD providing supported employment supports in a psychosocial rehabilitation clubhouse setting designed on the Fountain House model. In 1995 Denise began her career with the Autism Society as a Job Coach. Her primary responsibility was to develop vocational options for individuals with ASD. Within two years Denise expanded services within the region to include two residential homes that provided support to seven individuals with ASD and oversight of 140 staff providing community base support services to over 130 individuals with ASD. In 2008 Denise was promoted to Director of Services and is currently responsible for the supervision of direct support services to 412 individuals with ASD and 669 direct care and support staff within five regions across the state of North Carolina. Denise received her Bachelor's degree in Human Services from Springfield College.

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This webcast is supported through SEDL's Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (VR Autism), funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), part of the U.S. Department of Education. The opinions and views expressed are those of the presenter and no endorsement by the funding agency or the federal goverment should be inferred.