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Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models
for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
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Melissa Chong Palmer Chiropractic office assistant

What makes POW&R work?

We recognize that to support individuals with autism on community jobs, that we have to know and understand each person, and we have to understand how that person's autism impacts him or her so that we can develop individualized supports. We do the following things:

  • Provide staff with training on autism, the individual, and their communication and behavioral support needs
  • Spend more time up front with each individual. This pays off in the long run because we really get to know and understand them
  • Hire and train staff before new participants come into the program
  • Understand that people can be successful, set expectations high, and allow more time for participants to learn and adjust
  • Expect parents and families to be involved in developing work sites and to share information about their child's unique desires and needs.

Whenever possible, POW&R staff members assist adults with autism and their families to develop a Circle of Support and create a plan and budget based on individual choices. Services are provided wherever the person chooses to reside, socialize, recreate, or work.

…we develop a service plan that identifies interests, skills, and support needs as well as strategies to teach the person so that he or she can be successful.

- Theda Ellis, Executive Director, Autism Delaware

What do parents and consumers have to say about POW&R?

Brendan Flannery, Waggies by Maggies Baker

The POW&R program is the best Adult Services Program in the world. I think they are good at helping adults with autism. I suggest that adults with autism should try the program.

- Brendan, Participant

POW&R provides my son Ben with the support necessary to work and exercise and participate in his community. He has been able to be employed at Dollar Tree. He has his own shredding business which is growing. He volunteers in the community and enjoys recreational opportunities. His job skills have increased and his independence and confidence have grown over the past 18 months that he has received services through POW&R. POW&R doesn't just provide support, it also helps people grow. POW&R folks are always available to meet with families with any concerns or to share important information. Ben's happiness to go to work each day is what tells me that POW&R is the best fit for him.

- Karen Bashkow, Parent

As a POW&R participant, Nick now has all the elements of a successful life that we envisioned for both our children: meaningful, rewarding work; challenging recreational pursuits and enjoyable leisure time. What is more, he experiences these things in inclusive environments, surrounded by people who are always supportive of his present achievements and his future goals.

- Lucy Graham, Parent

Meet Dan: One of Many POW&R Success Stories

Dan Prettyman, office clerk at Christiana Care Neurological Specialist. Dan loves his job working for Neurology Associates.

The POW&R program is a wonderful service provider for young adults with Autism. It helps them to find jobs. In 2008 the POW&R program helped me to find a part time job at Neurology Associates. I now work there every Monday through Thursday from 11 AM until 4 PM. I enjoy working at Neurology Associates. On Friday mornings at 11:30 I meet up with my friends Brendan and Nick and our support staff Matt at Autism Delaware. We always go out for lunch on Fridays. After lunch we do a recreational activity. We usually do a different recreational activity each week. Sometimes we go swimming at the YMCA and sometimes we go to the movie theater to see a movie. Other times we go for a walk at the mall or a park. Then Matt takes Brendan, Nick, and me home. I always enjoy doing Rec. with Brendan, Nick, and Matt on Fridays. That's the highlight of my week and I spend the whole week looking forward to it. Katina Demetriou is the director of the POW&R program and she has helped me a lot throughout the past couple of years. I don't know where I'd be today without Katina and her wonderful staff. I enjoy being a participant in the POW&R program and recommend it to anyone with Autism who is looking for an Adult Services provider.

- Dan, Individual with Autism and POW&R participant

Costs of Program

  • The total annual operation budget of the POW&R program for fiscal year 2009 was $344, 000. For fiscal year 2010, it has increased to $401,800. The program is funded in part by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services. Additional funding is provided by Autism Delaware, the parent organization of POW&R.
  • If the individual is a part of the Early Start program, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation funds this. For those who are not, the same services are provided without reimbursement.


Job TitleTotal NumberPercent TimeKey Tasks
Director 1 FTE 100 Coordinates overall program
Trains & mentors staff
Develops job sites
Assesses participants
Meets with parents
Community Outreach Specialist 1 FTE 100 Carries primary VR caseload. Develops jobs and volunteer sites. Assesses individual. Provides training and follow-up. Meets with parents. Supports clients with developmental disabilities as needed
Community Support Specialist 5 FTE
Provides direct support to individuals during the day at the job and volunteer sites.
Community Outreach Assistant 1 PTE 50 Job development. Social skills training on jobs
Asperger's Syndrome specialization
Support from Autism Delaware:Executive Director 10 to 20% Program development and oversight
Office Manager 25% Billing and Human Resources
Bookkeeper Hourly Bookkeeping
Totals 7 FTE

Community Partnership

Working with the POW&R program has been an opportunity for the department staff to understand, learn more and have an appreciation of individuals with Autism. In the long run this helps the community promote awareness of Autism while it assists these young adults in their transition from high school into the working world. This transition is not easy for any young adult, let alone one with a set of unique needs so awareness is important for all involved. The support staff at POW&R has been here day, night and weekends to acclimate these young men to our environment. I feel it has been a rewarding experience to date and we look to continue our relationship with POW&R in the future.

Curt Melhorn, Associate Administrator Sodexho at DuPont Hospital for Children

Necessary for Successful Replication

  • Board members with vision and dedication
  • Experienced director with knowledge of both autism spectrum disorders and vocational rehabilitation services
  • Ability to raise funds for start up costs
  • Collaboration with other parent developmental disabilities groups, state agencies and school districts

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