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Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models
for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
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Autism Society of North Carolina

Mission Statement

The Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) provides support and promotes opportunities that enhance the lives of individuals within the autism spectrum and their families.

Contact Information

505 Oberlin Road
Suite 230
Raleigh, North Carolina 27605

Organizational Profile

ASNC was chartered as a non-profit organization in 1970. ASNC works collaboratively with other agencies to develop more options in the community for people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Providing support, information and referral services, and advocacy to people with ASD and their families are the mainstay of ASNC.

In 1986, ASNC began its Supported Employment Program for individuals with ASD. In 2007, ASNC began as a vendor for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for Supported Employment.


Program Design

The 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.

Program Effectiveness

  • 74 people with ASD were served by the Supported Employment Program in 2011.
  • In 2011, the Supported Employment Program staff provided 13,423 hours of job coaching.
  • 87% of persons served found competitive supported employment.
  • Wages of those employed ranged between $7.25 to $10.00 per hour, and one individual found a salaried position paying $29,500 per year.

What makes ASNC work?

Denise Ferguson, ASNC's Director of Services says, "The Autism Society of North Carolina is committed to providing support and promoting opportunities that enhance the lives of individuals within the autism spectrum and their families. We've accomplished this within ASNC's vocational programs through recognizing the skills and interests of the job seeker with ASD and matching those skills sets to real jobs within the community. We always market for the job seeker's skill level and abilities, which meet the employers' needs, rather than marketing the individuals' disability. We provide long-term and ongoing support to the supported employee and employer, thus ensuring maximum supports in the individuals' work place. Initial and ongoing supports are provided through individualized vocational assessments, community-based assessments, job development/placement, one-on-one job coaching and weekly vocational support groups meetings. Employer education and training are also offered as needed and requested."

What do employers have to say about ASNC?

Troy Morris/ Food Lion Manager: "James works for us and has become a valuable part of our front end. Our customers love to see him here, and they think that he does a great job. We are very pleased with this program and hope that it continues".

Kitty Banks/Kitchen Manager Inter-Faith Food Shuttle: "What makes the Autism Society of North Carolina's supports so great is that the job coach will get to know the employer's needs, will get to know the employee and the employee's needs, and will work with both to make sure each discover where (s)he fits in."

Quotes from the Participants of ASNC's Supported Employment Program:

"I am like 10 times more efficient at my job with supported employment."

"I appreciate [supported employment] now. I couldn't handle it when I was 16, 17. I thought someone was watching over my shoulder all the time and telling me what to do. I am more mature now. I appreciate the constructive criticism; it helps me perform my job better. I still get upset, but I realize it's for the best after a minute or two. The job coach is going to help me with this career and will help me choose another career as my skills continue to progress."

"Supported employment helps me get out and earn money."

"My life would be chaos without supported employment. This service helps me in way you could never imagine. Like if I show up to work sick, the job coach will take me home. They will talk to my boss if I need help. If I am doing something wrong they will tell me. I wouldn't have a job if it weren't for my job coach. That is why I love and need supported employment."

Success Story

Photo of Adam

Meet Adam:
Adam is a 33-year-old male from Fayetteville, North Carolina. Adam is considererd high functioning on the autism spectrum and has been working at ASNC as an office assistant since January 2001. Adam also receives services through the Supported Employment Program at ASNC.

His main responsibilities include opening and closing personnel files, photo coping, shredding confidential information, calculating task analysis, loading printer and copier with new paper, and taking minutes at the monthly staff meeting. Adam is very professional and comes to work everyday wearing a 3-piece suit.

Mary Lanier is a Vocational Specialist at ASNC. She interviewed Adam about his experience with ASNC's supported employment services and about being an employee at ASNC.

How has your life changed since you became employed with ASNC?"Better. I like the money. The job I have with ASNC makes me feel like I am needed. My job at ASNC gives me a purpose in life and has made my life very rewarding. Before I started working at here I volunteered at the a clinic and helped my dad on his tobacco farm in the summers. My life has changed in a very great way-I like getting paid and making money. Before I began working I spent too much time at home. Recently I received a pay raise at work, and I really like that."

What do you like most about your job? "I like calculating the tasks analysis each month-I love numbers, and I also like being around people."

What do you like least about your job? "I don't like to fall behind at work-I fall behind when I have to take the day off and when we have a holiday. I also get frustrated when the shredder and copier are broken. When people give me too much work to do, it makes me nervous and frustrated. I like structure in order to do my job well."

Adam, would you like to make any comments about your job coach? She is a wonderful woman and a great encourager. Ms. Ida means a lot to me, she has been working with me for 5 years. I've gotten better at my job since she has been with me, and I've made a lot of progress with [adapting to] change."

What do you see yourself doing in 5 years? "Becoming the boss of the company- you never know, one could never know. I would also like to get my drivers license. I would also like to meet someone special and get married one day and live on my own. I would also like to continue listening to music; my favorite groups are the Beatles, ZZ Topp, Elton John (my hero), Stevie Wonder, and Barry Manolow."

Costs of Program

The total annual operation budget of ASNC's employment program in fiscal year 2010 was $700,335. Fifteen percent of ASNC's services were funded through state VR payments in Fiscal Year 2010. The remaining 85% of these services were funded by CAP/MR/DD/SA (Community Alternative Program/ Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse).


Job Title

Total Number

Percent Time

Key Tasks

• Vocational Services Coordinator




-Intake and referral

-Oversee services

-Update and create IPE with individual

-Supervision of ASNC staff

-Create and monitor goals

-Job development

-Intensive training

- Job coaching

-Long-term follow along

• Vocational Services Instructor



-Job development

-Intensive training

-Conduct routine reviews

-Appropriate transportation

-Ensure benefits packages remain intact for individual

• Community Skills Instructor



-Employment supports

-Conduct interviews with supervisor/employer/coworker

-Conduct satisfaction interview

-Use, update, and maintain clinical structure and supports

Necessary for Successful Replication

  • Dedication to training employees to use and understand clinical programming specific to ASD
  • Development of strong relationships with local businesse

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