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Eight Effective Steps to Employment Success

By Cary Griffin and Dave Hammis

Alicia* received her Certificate of Attendance from public school and faced unemployment. Luckily, the local community rehabilitation program leveraged Vocational Rehabilitation and Developmental Disabilities funds to assist her in finding a job. Alicia made no secret of her love for children, but her school program only offered training in office skills and short unpaid work experiences bussing tables at a restaurant. With assistance from an employment specialist, Alicia visited several day care centers but found no jobs for individuals without experience. Digging deeper into her interests revealed that she enjoyed using computers with basic math and reading software. Even with minimal reading and math skills, the software served as her guide, and her ability to use the programs and her enthusiasm led the employment specialist to suggest that Alicia become a computer tutor for children.

Alicia worked with her team locating a pre-school program that needed computer equipment and an instructor. Using personal funds set aside for employment she brought a new computer and software into a day care facility, becoming their newest employee. The business charges families extra for computer tutoring, and Alicia is paid for her work. Three years later, the initial investment in equipment and software, along with job coach support setting up the operation, has paid off, allowing Alicia the success she dreamed of, and increasing the profitability of the business.

Alicia’s story is not typical. Today, only 26% of adults with developmental disabilities are working (Hall, et al., 2006). However, with a bit of planning and an understanding of employment options, transition-aged youth can attain vocational success.

Alicia’s story serves as an inventive, but simple, approach to creating employment. Traditional competitive employment fails people with disabilities. There are many entry-level jobs available for people with disabilities, but career advancement and doing what one loves are less common for individuals with significant disabilities. Therefore, changing our understanding of employment and approach to getting jobs is necessary. The following eight steps are a starting point:

* Alicia’s story is a composite of several people’s experiences


Hall, A., Butterworth, J., Winsor, J., Gilmore, D. & Metzel, D. (2006). Pushing the employment agenda: Case study research of high performing states in integrated employment. Manuscript in preparation.

Cary Griffin and Dave Hammis are Senior Partners in Griffin-Hammis Associates. Cary may be reached in Florence, Montana at; Dave may be reached in Middletown, Ohio at


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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota ( Citation: Gaylord, V., Agosta, J., Barclay, J., Melda, K. & Stenhjem, P. (Eds.). (2006). Impact: Feature Issue on Parenting Teens and Young Adults with Disabilities 19(2). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.]

The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at

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