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Vocational Options Project: Chapter 1

The most recent reauthorization of The Education for Handicapped Children Act occurred during the 101st Congress. P.L. 101-476 became law in September of 1990 and is now known as The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). P.L. 101-476 defined "transition services" as follows:

"A coordinated set of activities for a student, designed within an outcome oriented process, which promotes movement from

school to post school activities, includes postsecondary education, vocational training, integrated employment, (including supported employment), continuing adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation. The coordinated set of activities shall be based upon the individual student's needs taking into account the student's preferences and interests and shall include instruction, community experiences, development of employment and other postschool adult living objectives, and when appropriate acquisition of daily living

skills and functional vocational evaluation" (PL 101, 20 U.S.C. 1401


Prior to this legislation, transition had been described within the special education process, but it had never been defined in terms of who should participate, when they should participate, and who would provide the services. P.L. 101-476 mandated transition services for students with

severe disabilities to include "community experiences, the development of employment, and other post-school adult living objectives." In addition, a transition plan must be developed for a

student no later than age 16 and, in some cases, at age 14 or younger. Interagency responsibilities and linkages also must be included before the student graduates.

IDEA resulted from the increased focus on efforts to facilitate the successful movement of youth with disabilities from school to adult settings. The IDEA requires local education agencies to include transition planning and implementation in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process for all students with disabilities. Thus, for the first time, legislation spells out a requirement for providing "transition services" to support youth in their movement into post school settings.

Another important piece of legislation that impacts the transition of students from school to work is The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992

(P.L 102-569). The definition of transition services that is included in

P.L. 102-569 duplicates the one found in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Amendments recognize that many students with the most severe disabilities will exit school systems requiring rehabilitation services. Consequently, the new regulations mandate a state plan requiring that the state rehabilitation agency address the development of policies that will assure coordination between the rehabilitation agencies and state education agencies. The outcome is to assure that students exiting the schools who require rehabilitation services receive those services with no break in service (Button, 1992; Inge, 1993; Inge & Brooke, 1993).

It is also important for teachers to know that the new Amendments are guided by the presumption of ability. A person with a disability, regardless of the severity of the disability, can achieve employment and

other rehabilitation goals, if the appropriate services and supports are

made available. Therefore, the primary responsibilities of the vocational rehabilitation system are to:

  • Assist the individual with a disability to make informed choices about potential employment outcomes that result in integration and inclusionin the community.

  • Develop an individualized rehabilitation program with the full participationof the person with a disability.

  • Match the needs and interests reflected in the individualized programs with the appropriate services and supports including rehabilitation technology, supported employment, and others.

  • Proactively foster cooperative working relationships with other agencies and programs, including local education authorities, to unify the service system.

  • Emphasize the quality of services and the accountability that service

    representatives have to honor the dignity, participation, and growth of persons with disabilities as their employment interests develop over time. (Revell, 1993)

The transition provisions added to the Act do not shift the burden for

transition planning from education to rehabilitation. Instead, they promote coordination and collaboration between the two systems so there will be no gap in service for eligible students. The state plan requirements for transition under P.L. 102-569 include the following:

New State Plan Requirements for Transition

Goals and Public Education. Each state plan must:

. . . contain plans, policies, and procedures to be followed ( including

entering into a formal interagency cooperative agreement. . . witheducation officials responsible for the provision of a free appropriate public education to students who are individuals with disabilities) that are designed to:

A) facilitate the development and accomplishment of

  • long term rehabilitation goals;

  • intermediate rehabilitation objectives; and
  • goals and objectives related to enabling a student to live independently before the student leaves a school setting, to the extent the goals and objectives described in clause (1) through (3) are included

    in an individualized education program of the student, including the specification of plans for coordination with the educational agencies in

    the provision of transition services;

B) facilitate the transition from the provision of a free appropriate public education under the responsibility

of an educational agency to the provision of vocational rehabilitation services under the responsibility of the designated State unit, including

the specification of plans for coordination with educational agencies in

the provision of transition services authorized under section 103(a)(14)

to an individual, consistent with the individualized written rehabilitation program of the individual; and

C) provide that such plans, policies, and procedures

will address

  • provisions for determingin State lead agencies and qualified personnel responsible for transition services;
  • procedures for outreach to and identification of youth in need of such services; and
  • a timeframe for evaluation and follow-up of youth who have received such services (Sec. 101(a)(24)).


Prior to the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992, an individual had to have evaluations to determine his/her "rehab. potential"

and the "feasibility" for "employability." Often these evaluations concluded that persons with the most severe disabilities were

not eligible for services. However, since advances in technology and supported employment, disability can no longer be equated with an inability to work (Button, 1992; Inge & Brooke, 1993). In assuming that people with disabilities can work, several critical changes will occur.

Eligibility: Accessing the Rehabilitation System

  • The notion of feasibility is removed.
  • The rehabilitation counselor must demonstrate that no employment outcome is possible in order to determine a person ineligible.
  • The burden of proof for accessing the system shifts from the individual to the rehabilitation system.

A two part process essentially determines a person's eligibility for rehabilitation services. First, does the person have a disability? Second, does he/she require assistance from the vocational rehabilitation

system to achieve an employment outcome? Presumption of ability changes the "old way" of an "evaluation of rehabilitation

potential", to an assessment of eligibility and rehabilitation needs.

Eligibility determinations must now focus first on the use of existing

data, particularly on information provided by the individual with a disability, his/her family, or advocates. Other sources may include education agencies, social security agencies, the individual's personal physi- cian, previous or current employer(s), community organizations such as UCP affiliates, and any organization or person referring the individual. The use of existing data for determining eligibility for rehabilitation services has major implications for school systems. If students participate in school programs that provide community-based vocational training and paid work experiences prior to graduation, data will be available to establish eligibility for rehabilitation services post graduation. Students will have developed resumes and references from previous and/or current employers to demonstrate the feasibility of employment outcomes. In conclusion, teachers should get to know their vocational rehabilitation counselor(s) and make sure that this person is a member of their students' transition teams. The remainder of this chapter outlines the steps for setting up a community-based vocational program.


Designing A Community-Based Vocational Program

Vocational training must reflect a community's local economy in order to prepare students with severe disabilities for paid jobs by the time of graduation (Bates, 1989; Moon, Inge, Wehman, Brooke, & Barcus, 1990a; Moon & Inge, 1993; Renzaglia & Hutchins, 1988). Each school system's vocational curriculum will be different based on the community in which the students reside. Development of the curriculum will entail continual assessment of the local labor market to determine the major employers in the community, the types of employment most commonly available, and the type of employment that has been obtained by

individuals with disabilities (Moon et al., 1990a).

School systems are cautioned to carefully analyze the types of training experiences selected. For instance, it may be easy to develop a horticultural program on the school grounds or obtain collating work from

the school office for vocational training purposes. However, if these training experiences do not reflect future job possibilities, the students may have difficulty with their transition from school to work. In addition, teachers should limit simulated work in the classroom setting, since this does not provide the needed coworker/social integration training that is critical for job success. Work experiences on the school grounds should be for younger students under 14 when community-based training is not an option (Moon, Kiernan, & Halloran,

1990; Renzaglia & Hutchins, 1988). Finally, as students near graduation, time in real job settings should increase until the majority

of the school day is spent in the community (Brown et al., 1991; Sailor et al., 1986; Wehman, Moon, Everson, Wood, Barcus, 1988; Wehman, 1993).

Establishing Community-Based Training Sites

The steps in developing community-based training sites include: 1.) conducting a job market analysis; 2.) identifying businesses with the targeted jobs and contacting the personnel director or employer; 3.) selecting and analyzing appropriate jobs for community-based training; 4.) scheduling community-based vocational instruction; and 5.) designing

individualized instructional programs. Teachers may want to first contact

adult service agencies within their communities to determine the location

of supported employment placements. These sites may not be appropriate for community-based vocational training experiences, since the presence of unpaid students could confuse the employers and result in inappropriate work expectations and labor law violations (Moon & Inge, 1993). A detailed listing of the steps and activities involved in developing community-based training sites is provided in Table 1 which is

located in the appendix of this chapter.

Step 1: Conduct a Job Market Analysis. Initially, a school system may want to identify a task force of teachers to develop procedures for completing a community job market analysis (Pumpian, Shepard, & West, 1988). In some instances,

the task force may appoint the transition coordinator to complete business contacts, or a special education teacher at the secondary level

may take the lead. In any case, a plan of action should be developed to prevent duplication of effort. Figures 1 and 2 are sample forms in the appendix of this chapter that can be used to keep track of which employers have been contacted or interviewed when developing a community-based vocational training program.

Once school personnel have been identified to complete the market analysis, they may begin by surveying their local Chamber of Commerce and/or Economic Development Office, looking in the telephone directory, reading the newspaper want ads, interviewing potential employers, completing follow-up contacts with school graduates, and contacting adult

service agencies and supported employment programs to determine job placements for individuals with severe disabilities. A list of contacts might include the following:

Potential List of Business Contacts

  • State Economic Development Office
  • State Employment Commission
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Trade Associations
  • Better Business Bureau
  • City and County Employment Offices
  • Dept. of Labor
  • Telephone Book/Newspaper Classifieds

  • Business Newsletters
  • Voc Rehab Agencies
  • Supported Employment Providers
  • Civic Clubs and Organizations
  • Friends and Associates

Once a list of businesses has been generated, the school representative(s) should initiate contacts with a sample of employers to

identify jobs that would be available to students upon graduation. Renzaglia and Hutchins (1988) suggest generating a list of local businesses and categorizing them by job types (e.g. clerical, food service, janitorial, industrial, etc.). After a general job market analysis has been completed, teachers are ready to contact specific employers regarding the use of their businesses for vocational training.

Step 2: Identify businesses with the targeted jobs and contact the personnel director / employer. Once the local economy has been assessed to determine the possible job types for students with severe disabilities, the teacher(s) must determine where instruction will occur. Each student should have the opportunity to experience a variety of jobs in a number of different settings to assist the student in developing a work history, determine his or her job preferences, identify future training needs, and determine skill characteristics for future job matching. The task force that completed the community job market analysis should also identify the individual(s) who will approach employers regarding use of their businesses for community-based training sites.

Initial information to identify potential jobs within a business can be obtained from the personnel director or employer. Often this individual will be able to provide written job descriptions that can be useful in identifying job types, however, observation of the actual work sites usually is more beneficial for job identification (Moon et al., 1990a). When selecting nonpaid work experiences, the teacher must be careful not

to displace a worker within the job site in order to meet labor law requirements (Inge, Simon, Halloran, & Moon, 1993). Therefore the tasks targeted should provide enough space for the student and teacher to

work alongside the regular employee.

Another issue to consider is the number of tasks that should be identified for instruction. There is some debate regarding whether a student should be given experiences with a number of tasks or limited to

one or two choices (Sowers & Powers, 1991). Obviously this decision should be made based on the characteristics of specific students being placed on the training site, however, in general it seems appropriate to

limit the number of tasks for students with severe disabilities. Sowers & Powers (1991) suggest that providing instruction on a number of different tasks or moving students from task to task before skill learning may not allow them to experience a sense of accomplishment. Certainly, students with more severe disabilities will be performing jobs

with a minimal number of task change requirements when they become employed (Moon et al., 1990a) Therefore, it seems most reasonable to provide them with training experiences that are similar in task requirements to future expectations.

Contact the Personnel Director/employer: Contacts with the personnel director or a company manager can be made by phone or letter to

set up an appointment to discuss the school's program in detail. Additional methods for initial contacts may include visits to local business association meetings, employer breakfasts, visits to regional business offices, etc. (Pumpian et al., 1988). "Dropping in" on

employers without an appointment is not recommended.

Contacts by letter should always be followed with telephone communication. The content of the letter or phone conversation could include a brief description of the school program, identification of potential job types available in the business, and possible times for an

appointment to visit. During the initial site visit, the teacher can discuss the responsibilities of the school trainer, student, and employer/coworkers. In addition, the teacher must explain to the employer

the labor law requirements that need to be met regarding unpaid work experiences. Labor law regulations for nonpaid work experiences are described in detail in Chapter 2 of this monograph.

The contact person also should be prepared to discuss insurance coverage by the school system and liability issues, as well as the development of a training agreement with the business. The students participating in the Vocational Options Project were covered by the school's liability insurance policy. Prior to the implementation of training, the school lawyer reviewed the insurance policy and ensured that students were covered if an accident occurred on a job site (considered an extension of the school building). In addition, each parent agreed to take out a school sponsored policy at a nominal charge that would cover medical expenses in the case of an emergency.

Step 3: Select and Analyze Appropriate Jobs for Community-Based Training. Often, the initial contact made with a business is with an employer or management level individual who will not be able to specifically assist the teacher in identifying jobs for training. He/she will be referred to a supervisor who in turn will be

the actual contact person for community programming. For instance, one job site identified by the Vocational Options project was a hotel. Initial meetings were conducted with the hotel manager, however actual identification of job tasks occurred when the teacher met with the housekeeping supervisor.

Activities during this phase of setting up a community-based training site include observing the coworkers performing the job duties available,

selecting tasks that are appropriate to the students who will be receiving training, and actually working the selected job duties. A tentative schedule of the activities that the student(s) will be performing should

be developed, as well as task analyses for skills targeted. Both of these

may need modification once specific students are assigned to the work site. Finally, the teacher should negotiate times for the student(s) to be on site and a start date. The following information outlines the steps

for designing a job duty schedule and writing task analyses.

Job Duty Schedule: A job duty schedule outlines the specific work tasks that will be performed by the students, as well as the time that they will be performed. The following is a sample job schedule for a community-based training site.


Sample Community-Based Training Schedule

Community-Based Training Site: Discount Clothing Store - Stock Room

Area Supervisor: Mrs. Mary Miller

Teacher Completing Form: Stacy D.

__ Daily
(Training tasks remain the
same from day to day)

__ Varies day to day
(If checked here, complete a separate
form for each day's schedule)

If above spaceis checked, indicate day
for which this form is completed:

Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri

Vocational Training Tasks Approximate Time

1:00 pm - 1:15 pm Punch in, set up work area

1:15 pm - 1:30 pm Open clothing boxes

1:30 pm - 2:00 pm Put clothes on hangers

2:00 p.m. - 2:15 pm Break in employee lounge

2:15 pm - 3:00 pm Unpack boxes, fold items, put on
shelves in stock room

3:00 pm - 3:30 pm Punch out - Go to McDonald's -
Return to School

Comments: Students should wear dark blue pants and a white shirt for this training site. Report to Mrs. Miller upon arrival. If she is not

in the stock room, call ext. 75 and report to security. Students will work with Bill and Laura (coworkers) on all tasks.



In addition to the job duty schedule, the teacher/trainer needs to determine if there are any special requirements that the employer has for

the student(s) on the job site. Answers to the following sample questions

should be determined (Moon & Inge, 1993).

  • Does the employer/supervisor want the student(s) to wear a uniform or specific clothing (e.g. white shirt with black pants)?

  • What entrance should be used?
  • Is it important to report to the supervisor or a coworker upon arrival?
  • Do employees have assigned lockers and can one be available to the student(s)?
  • Is there an identified break area and employee bathroom?
  • Are there specific break times for employees?

  • Are there any company benefits that may be available to the students (e.g. free lunch or soda)?
  • Are there any restricted (hazardous) areas or activities that can be identified?
  • Is there a company policy or procedure for reporting accidents on the


All of this information should be recorded and placed in a file that can be accessed by all school personnel. This would be particularly important during teacher absences when another school employee must supervise the site.

Task Analysis: Whatever activities are included in the job duty

schedule, the teacher needs to complete a thorough task analysis of each activity prior to bringing the student(s) to the work site. He/she should

observe the coworkers performing the task, identify each step that is completed, and then perform the job modifying the steps as necessary. Finally, the teacher should check with the supervisor to ensure that the

task is being performed correctly.

Each step of a task analysis should consist of one observable behavior

that can be taught individually (Barcus, Brooke, Inge, Moon, Goodall, 1987; Moon et al., 1990a; Moon & Inge, 1993). It is also helpful to word steps in the second person so they may be used as verbal prompts during instruction (e.g., "Wipe the lid of the toilet"), as well as making references to things that are observable (e.g., "Push the green button"). A good task analysis assists the teacher in organizing instruction, providing consistent training, and evaluating the student's

performance. The following is a sample task analysis for cleaning a toilet.

Task Analysis: "Clean the Toilet"

  1. Put toilet brush in bucket.
  2. Pick up cleanser.
  3. Push bucket to first toilet.
  4. Squirt cleanser in toilet.
  5. Set down cleanser.
  6. Pick up brush.
  7. Tap brush 2x's on side of bucket.
  8. Brush top of toilet.
  9. Brush sides of toilet.
  10. Brush front of toilet.
  11. Dip brush in bucket.
  12. Tap brush 2x's on side of bucket.
  13. Brush seat of toilet.
  14. Raise seat of toilet.

  15. Brush inside seat of toilet.
  16. Dip brush in bucket.
  17. Tap brush 2x's on side of bucket.
  18. Dip brush inside toilet.
  19. Brush inside of toilet 4x's.
  20. Tap brush 2x's on seat.
  21. Put toilet brush in bucket.
  22. Pick up the cleanser.
  23. Push bucket to next toilet.

There are several tips for developing and individualizing task analyses for vocational instruction in order to facilitate a student's skill acquisition and quality performance. First, the teacher should analyze a

job to determine if discrimination is part of the task and,

if so, how can this be "built" into the task analysis. For instance, many individuals with severe disabilities may be unable to distinguish clean vs. dirty. In the above task analysis, the teacher could analyze cleaning the toilet and determine a pattern that must be followed to wipe the top, sides, seat, and inside of the toilet which would always result in a clean surface. These steps would then be broken

down into smaller steps for instruction. For a student with discrimination difficulties, a sample step in the above task analysis may

be further analyzed in the following fashion. The information placed in parentheses serves as a cue to the trainer for consistency of prompting but is not used as a verbal cue to the student.

Example: Step 8 of Cleaning the Toilet

8. Brush top of toilet. (Student wipes top one time, always working left to right.)

  • Place brush at back corner.
  • Move brush across top of toilet.
  • Place brush at front corner.
  • Move brush across top.

Another area that the teacher has addressed in the task analysis for cleaning the toilet is chaining of activities or work tasks. For instance, the last three steps of the task are the first three steps of cleaning the next toilet. In this manner, the teacher can write all of a student's

task analyses to interconnect in order to sequence the work activities. This will help him/her learn to move from one task to another and ultimately be independent on the job site.

Efficiency should also be considered when writing a task analysis. For instance, students with severe disabilities may avoid reaching across the midline of their body, using two hands together, or using one hand consistently. The teacher should observe the student and determine the most efficient way to complete the task based on his or her

physical abilities. For instance, if there are no physical limitations that prohibit using both hands to complete a task, the task analysis should require the student to do so (e.g., picking up an armful of laundry with both arms vs. using one hand only). Systematic instruction then can be implemented to teach the student the physical requirements of

the activity.

The use of natural cues or material prompts could also be built

into the task analysis to facilitate skill acquisition. For instance, the student could be taught to use work supplies as a cue for task completion or assistance in moving from one step or work duty to another.

An example might be putting the "pink" cleanser in all toilets

that need to be cleaned as the first step in the task analysis. The presence of cleanser in the toilet would provide a cue that a bathroom stall has not been cleaned.

Completing a job to production standards / speed often will be

an issue when teaching students with severe disabilities. Initial consideration when designing a task analysis can assist in eliminating this problem. For instance, students may continue to perform a step in a

task even though it is not necessary (e.g., cleaning the inside of a toilet, scrubbing a pot, etc.) Observation of the student may reveal that

he/she is perseverating on steps in the task. In the above task analysis

of cleaning the toilet for instance, the teacher could write the task analysis to provide structure to the steps that are being repeated (e.g.

tap the brush 2x's on side of bucket). Even though most students with severe disabilities will not understand the concept of a number of movements, repetition through systematic instruction can result in skill


Step 4: Schedule Community-Based Instruction. Creative use of school personnel to schedule and transport students for community-based instruction will clearly be the greatest challenge for administrators and teachers of students with severe disabilities (Hutchins & Talarico, 1985). A number of model demonstration programs across the country have identified solutions for scheduling and transportation issues (Baumgart & Van Walleghem, 1986;

Hutchins & Talarico, 1985; Nietupski, Hamre-Nietupski, Welch, &

Anderson, 1983; Wehman, et al., 1988). Staffing solutions have included team teaching; use of volunteers, paraprofessionals, peer tutors, graduate students, and student teachers; heterogeneous grouping of students; staggered student training schedules; and utilization of support personnel providing integrated therapy services. Transportation issues have been resolved using volunteers' or parents' cars with mileage

reimbursement, coordination of training schedules with regular school bus

schedules, use of public transportation, use of school district vehicles,

and walking to sites within short distances. Each school system must select procedures that are effective for their specific needs. A rule of

thumb to follow for scheduling purposes is no more than 4 students per training site per instructor, however fewer would be more effective for skill development (Wehman et al., 1988).

Scheduling should also focus on providing a variety of experiences across the students school year. Each transition team should decide what

experiences are appropriate to a student's long-term objectives and make

recommendations concerning training in the community. Keep in mind that the labor law regulations require that a student's program for non-paid work experiences should not exceed the following in a given school year:

Vocational exploration: 5 hours per job experienced

Vocational assessment: 90 hours per job experienced

Vocational training:

120 hours per job experienced

The Vocational Options Project used three grant funded staff to provide community-based vocational experiences to students with severe disabilities. After jobs were identified that were reflective of the local labor market, students were rotated through real work sites providing them an opportunity to sample jobs across different trainers, as well as work at different times of the day. Tables 2 and 3 in the appendix of this chapter show the training schedule and job duties for one group of eight students who participated in community-based instruction.

Step 5: Design Systematic Instructional


Once the sites have been identified and a schedule for student placement determined, the teacher must design instructional programs outlining how each student will be taught job skills and other related vocational activities. Included in the design should be a) specific training objectives, b) individualized task analyses, c) data collection

guidelines, d) instructional strategies, e) reinforcement procedures, and

f) program modifications. The following sections outline each of these components in detail.

a) Write Vocational Training Objectives

Training objectives are written to include the observable behaviors that will be taught, the conditions under which they will occur, and the criteria that will be used to evaluate the student's performance (Snell & Grigg, 1986; Wehman et al., 1988). Each skill that is being taught on a job site should have a program objective included in the student's IEP or Individualized Transition Plan (I.T.P.). The following is an example of one student's objective for folding a bath towel.


Sample Behavioral Objective ComponentExample

Condition under which behavior will occur: Given a laundry basket of bath towels and the cue, "fold the towels ",

Observable behavior: Janet will fold the towels

Criteria for evaluation of student performance: with 100% accuracy according to the steps in the task analysis for three consecutive probe trials


b) Individualized task analyses

Although the teacher developed tasks analyses when he/she negotiated with the employer to set up the training site, each student will need them to be custom designed for his/her training needs. This will occur during the first several days that the teacher and student(s) are on a job site.

For instance, the teacher may determine that a task needs to be broken down into more detailed steps or designed to eliminate a particular discrimination that the student can not make. The process of altering or

modifying a task analysis can be facilitated by the use of data collection. Data can point to a step(s) in the task that the student is not learning and indicate that change needs to be made in this area.

c) Collect Baseline and Probe Data

Data collection is an important part of any instructional program, since it is necessary for monitoring a student's skill acquisition. However, it is a critical portion of community-based instruction, since the teacher/trainer must be able to demonstrate that a student's vocational placement is for training purposes in order to meet the Department of Labor regulations for non-paid work experiences. In other words, data can indicate when the student is able to perform a work task

to the standards/requirements of the work site. At this point in training, the student must receive payment for work completed or he/she needs to be moved to another site for additional work experiences (Inge et al., 1993).

The teacher must select a data collection procedure for each skill receiving instruction during community-based training to include job duties, as well as work-related activities. (Falvey, 1989; Moon & Inge, 1993; Wehman et al., 1988). Initial data collection is referred to

as a baseline and should be conducted at least once prior to the initiation of any skill acquisition program. If possible, the teacher should collect baseline data for several days until a stable rate of student performance is established. The following graph shows how the trainer collected data for several days at a training site in order to establish a baseline for sorting coathangers.

Sample Baseline Data Demonstrating Stability of Student Performance

Once training begins, data collection is referred to as a probe and should be collected at least one time a week prior to the beginning of a training session. The critical component of both baseline and probe assessment is that the student is allowed to perform the task independently without providing feedback, reinforcement, or prompting (Moon & Inge, 1993; Moon et al., 1990a). Typically, a skill is considered learned when the student performs the task correctly

for three or four consecutive probe trials without any assistance from the trainer (Wehman et al., 1988).

There are two strategies that can be used for baseline and probe assessment to include single and multiple opportunity probe procedures (Barcus et al., 1987; Moon et al., 1990a). Use of a multiple opportunity

probe requires that the student be tested on his or her performance for every step in the task analysis. A single opportunity probe requires that

the teacher discontinue the assessment as soon as the student makes an error. The following table provides step-by step guidelines for each type

of data collection procedure.

Guidelines for Collecting Baseline or Probe Data

Multiple Opportunity

  1. Have the student move to the appropriate work area unless movement is

    the first step of the task analysis.

  2. Stand beside or behind the student so that data collection does not interrupt the work flow.
  3. Provide the work cue (i.e. "Sort the coathangers"; presence

    of the work materials; etc.).

  4. Do not provide verbal instructions, prompts, or reinforcement during data collection.
  5. Wait a specified latency period (i.e. 3 seconds) for the student to initiate a response.
  6. Record a (+) if student completes the step correctly.
  7. If a response is incorrect or the student does not initiate the step within 3 seconds, complete the step yourself (if necessary for task completion) or position the student to perform the next step in the task

    analysis. (Do not take the student's hands and perform the step with him/her. This would be considered a physical prompt.) Record a (-) for the step in the task analysis.

  8. Repeat items #5, #6, and #7 as necessary in order to test all steps in the task analysis from first to last.

Single Opportunity

  1. Have the student move to the appropriate work area unless movement is

    the first step of the task analysis.

  2. Stand beside or behind the student so that data collection does not interrupt the work flow.
  3. Tell the student that he or she is going to complete the job without assistance to see how much he or she can do independently.
  4. Provide the work cue (i.e. "Sort the coathangers"; presence

    of the work materials; etc.).

  5. Do not provide verbal instructions, prompts, or reinforcement during data collection.
  6. Wait a specified latency period (i.e. 3 seconds) for the student to initiate a response.
  7. Record a (+) for correct performance. Allow the student to continue working as long as correct responses are being made.
  8. As soon as the student makes an error or fails to respond within the latency period, discontinue the probe and score a (-) for all remaining steps in the task analysis.
  9. Begin instruction immediately on the step that the student made his/her first error.

    Adapted from: Moon, M.S., Inge, K.J., Wehman, P.,

    Brooke, V., & Barcus, M. (1990). Helping persons with severe mental retardation get and keep employment: Supported employment issues and strategies. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company.

There are several advantages to using the single opportunity strategy during community-based instruction (Moon et al., 1990a). First, data collection should not be time consuming and interrupt the natural flow of

the work place. For instance, use of a multiple opportunity data collection procedure could limit the amount of training time available on

the site. Since use of the multiple opportunity probe requires that all steps in the task be assessed, a task that takes a substantial amount of

time to complete such as operating a dishmachine may be better assessed by a single opportunity probe. Discontinuing a probe as soon as the student makes a mistake allows instruction to begin immediately on that specific step of the task analysis. The major advantage to using the multiple opportunity strategy, however, is that the trainer is able to determine the exact steps of the task that the student has difficulty performing without assistance, prompting, or reinforcement. Teachers should assess the work environment and the length of the task to determine the most appropriate strategy for data collection.

d) Select an Instructional Strategy

Least Prompts: The majority of the literature on teaching vocational tasks to individuals with severe disabilities focuses

on the use of least prompts as the teaching strategy of choice (Barcus et

al., 1987; Cuvo, Leaf, & Borakove, 1978; Test, Grossi, & Keul, 1988). This strategy is also referred to as a response prompt hierarchy,

since the trainer progresses from the least amount of assistance (usually

a verbal prompt) to the most intrusive (usually a physical prompt) until

one prompt stimulates correct responding.

Use of a least prompt strategy can be very effective for teaching skills on community job sites. Teachers are encouraged to consider various types

of prompts to use in addition to the traditional verbal, model, physical sequence. For instance, as a student becomes more proficient on a site, try using an indirect verbal prompt in the sequence such as, "what do you do next," before using the verbal prompt specific to the step

in the task analysis. This may be effective also for training students who have long been dependent on teachers for verbal instruction. In addition, gestures can be used instead of a full model prompt or partial

physical assistance such as touching the student's arm.

Regardless of the types of prompts selected, the teacher should establish a latency period or time that he or she will wait for the student to respond before providing the next level of assistance. Usually

a student should be given approximately 3 or 5 seconds to respond independently. Students with physical disabilities, however, may require

longer latency periods based on their movement limitations, and this should be determined on an individual basis (Inge, 1992; Sowers & Powers, 1991). Finally, the teacher is cautioned to deliver each prompt only once before moving to the next more intrusive prompt. Figure 3 provides a least prompt training program that was used for a student in the Vocational Options Project and can be found in the appendix of this chapter. The following is a list of steps for using a least prompt strategy.

Guidelines for Using a Least

Prompt Hierarchy
(Barcus et al., 1987; Moon et al., 1990a)

  1. Have the student move to the appropriate work area unless movement is part of the task analysis (TA).
  2. Stand behind or beside the individual so that you can quickly provide

    prompts when necessary

  3. Provide the cue to begin the task. (Ex. "Clean the mirror,"

    "Sort the coathangers, etc.)

  4. Wait 3 seconds for self-initiation for step 1 of the TA.
  5. If the student completes the step independently, provide reinforcement and proceed to step 2 of the TA. Score + on the data sheet.
  6. If the student is incorrect or does not respond within 3 seconds, provide a verbal prompt specific to step 1 of the TA. ((Example: "Pick up the windex.")
  7. If the student completes the step with a verbal prompt, provide reinforcement and move to step 2. Record V (for verbal) on the data sheet.
  8. If the student is incorrect or does not respond within 3 seconds, model the response (Example: Teacher picks up the windex).
  9. If the student completes the step with a model prompt, provide reinforcement and move to step 2. Record M (for model) on the data sheet.

  10. If the student is incorrect or does not respond within 3 seconds, physically guide him/her through the response (Example: Teacher guides the student's hand to pick up the windex.) Record P (for physical) on the

    data sheet.

  11. Begin instruction on step 2 of the TA.
  12. Repeat this procedure for each step in the TA until the task is completed. Always interrupt an error with the next prompt in the least prompt system.

Time Delay: The use of time delay on vocational training

sites is another viable option for teachers of students with severe disabilities (Inge, Moon, & Parent, 1993; Moon et al., 1990a). There

are several critical components to a time delay procedure (Gast, Ault, Wolery, Doyle, & Bellanger, 1988; Snell & Gast, 1981). First, the

teacher must select a prompt that will consistently assist the student to

perform the task correctly. Initially, the prompt is given simultaneously

with the request to perform the job duty. Gradually, increasing amounts of time (usually seconds) are waited between giving the request to perform the task and providing the prompt to complete the skill correctly. The number of trials at each delay level and the length of the

delay should be determined prior to initiation of the program. By pairing

the prompt with the request to perform a work task, the student is not allowed to make errors initially. The delay procedure allows the teacher

to gradually fade assistance until the student performs without prompting. For example, a set number of trials are determined for 0 second delay, the next set at 2 seconds, the next at 4 seconds, etc. until the student performs without assistance.

Unlike the system of least prompts, time delay requires that the teacher select one prompt for use during the instructional program. Therefore, the procedure would be particularly useful if a student has consistently demonstrated a preference for one type of prompt. For example, if a student has shown that he or she always responds to a model

prompt without making errors, the teacher can select it to place on delay

(Moon et al., 1990a).

If an error occurs during time delay, the teacher should implement an

error correction procedure. Typically an error may occur once increasing

amounts of time are waited before the prompt is provided. Usually error correction consists of immediately interrupting the student's mistake and

providing the prompt. If the student makes 3 or more errors in a row, the

teacher may consider reverting to a number of trials at 0 seconds before

again delaying the prompt. Monitoring of the training data is essential to ensure that the student is not constantly making errors during the procedure. If this is the case, the teacher should consider selecting another prompt in order to provide an errorless learning experience.

The use of backward chaining and time delay has been used on a job site to demonstrate skill acquisition for two young women with severe disabilities (Inge et al., 1993; Moon et al., 1990a). The students were prompted on every step in the task analysis using a 0 second delay until

the last step in the chain was reached. This step was then instructed using time delay until skill competence was shown on that step. The trainer then proceeded backwards in the chain until the entire task analysis was learned. Figure 4 provides an example of a time delay program used on a community-based training site and can be found in the appendix of this chapter.

e) Identify Reinforcers and Determine Schedule of Delivery

Selection of reinforcers as well as the systematic delivery of reinforcement is critical for student success on community-based vocational sites. The most effective reinforcers are those that arise as

a natural consequence to a given task or situation within the work environment (Wilcox & Bellamy, 1982). Therefore, the teacher should begin by attempting to identify items that are available in a specific community-based setting. For example, there may be a vending machine located within the employee break room which can be used to reinforce the

student at the end of a training period or an employee cafeteria where he

or she could get a snack. However, it should be remembered that not all individuals will be reinforced by the same items and that even the most preferred reinforcer if used too frequently will lose its effectiveness (Falvey, 1989). Only after failing to identify a natural reinforcer, should the teacher select more artificial items (Moon et al., 1990a). Teachers are also cautioned to select only age appropriate materials for

use on community-sites. The following information may be helpful in identifying potential reinforcers for students (Barcus, et al., 1987; Falvey, 1989; Moon et al., 1990a).

  1. Survey individuals familiar with the student to determine likes and dislikes. Include leisure activities, tangible items, types of verbal reinforcement, etc.

  2. Observe the student in several natural environments during his or her

    free time and record what he or she does.

  3. Offer the student a chance to interact with several novel items and record what he or she does. Repeat the experience over several days and determine if there is a pattern to item selection.

  4. Select an item and use it as a reinforcer for a behavior the student already performs independently. Observe to see if that behavior increases.

Many employers may be willing to provide students with employee benefits that are natural to the work site. For instance, if a free lunch

is available to the coworkers, an employer usually will make this available to students who are training on the site. Another employer may

provide a coffee pot that coworkers are allowed access to during break. Teachers should negotiate with employers and work these natural reinforcers into their students' training programs.

Timing: After items have been identified for use on community-based sites, a schedule of reinforcement should be determined.

Ideally, all reinforcement should be given quickly and immediately following the occurrence of the desired behavior. However, it usually is

not feasible on a job site to provide tangible or edible reinforcement immediately after a behavior occurs (Moon et al., 1990a). In addition, most students with severe disabilities will not understand the connection

between work well done during the training session and the soda purchased

at McDonald's before returning to school. In these instances, the teacher

must develop a training program that utilizes exchangeable reinforcers on

predetermined schedules. Exchangeable items include money, tokens, points

on a card, checks on a calendar, and so forth. Attempts should be made to

keep these systems age appropriate (e.g. Do not use happy faces or stickers for high school students.)

There are several advantages to teaching the student to respond to exchangeable reinforcers. First, if the teacher uses money as the exchangeable item, he or she is teaching the student the relationship between work and money. Also, the food item or tangible object can be delivered at an appropriate time i.e. during break. Finally, the teacher

can gradually increase the program requirements to earn the exchangeable

item in order to fade the reinforcement. As an example, a student earns 10 cents for every 5 minutes of work. When she earns 50 cents, she can "exchange" her coins for a drink in the vending machine. Gradually, the student is required to work for increasing periods of time

before earning the 10 cents until the money to buy an item from the vending machine is delivered at the end of the training session.

Schedule of Delivery: Teachers can choose to reinforce students using two types of schedules to include a predetermined number of responses/ratio schedule of reinforcement or a predetermined period of time/interval schedule (Moon et al., 1990a). When delivering reinforcement on a ratio schedule, the teacher may use a fixed-ratio or variable ratio schedule. In a fixed schedule, reinforcement is provided after a set number of responses (e.g. after ever 3 steps in the task analysis, after every 5 towels folded). It may be preferable

to design programsusing a variable ratio schedule which requires delivery

after an average number of responses. Using this strategy, the student is

reinforced on the average of a number of responses (e.g. on the average of every 3 steps in the task analysis, on the average of every 3

towels folded). In this manner, the student is not able to anticipate when reinforcement will be delivered which may approximate the natural environment.

Use of an interval schedule is similar to a ratio schedule in that it too can be delivered on a fixed or variable strategy. In this instance, the teacher designs the program to provide reinforcement based on time intervals. Using the fixed interval schedule, the teacher may select to reinforce a student after every five minutes, at the end of the training session, at the end of the work week, etc.. A variable schedule would occur on the average of a set period of time such as on the average of every 10 minutes.

Regardless of the type of schedule the teacher selects, he or she must

design a plan for fading the reinforcement to naturally occurring items on the job site. For instance, always pair verbal praise with the delivery of a tangible item fading to supervisor or coworker approval over the course of the program. Figures 3 and 4 provide instructional programs that demonstrate the use of reinforcement on a job

site and the fading process.

f) Program Modifications

Community-based instruction provides an excellent opportunity for teachers to determine the most effective training strategies to use with

specific students in real work sites. By monitoring a student's progress

through data collection, the teacher often can pinpoint what changes need

to be made in an instructional program to assist a student in skill acquisition. Occasionally, it is difficult to determine exactly what needs to occur to facilitate success. In these instances, it is suggested

that several teachers or the student's transition team brainstorm solutions to problems encountered. The following represents a list of brainstorming questions that can assist in program modifications.

Brainstorming Solutions to Training Problems
(Adapted from Moon et al.,


  1. Analyze the effectiveness of the training strategy.

    • Does the prompting procedure (i.e. least prompts, time delay) match the learning style of the student?

    • Is the student responding to the type of prompt(s) selected?
    • Is the student distracted by noise/people in the environment? Is he/she attending to task?
    • Can you reduce the number of skills being taught in order to provide repeated practice on a specific job duty?

  2. Has the task analysis been individualized to match the student's abilities?

    • Has the task been broken down into small enough steps?
    • Have the physical limitations of the student been taken into consideration?
    • Does the task analysis eliminate the need to make quality judgements?

    • Can several steps of the task be taught rather than the whole task analysis?
    • Would the student benefit from a backward chaining procedure?
    • Do the steps in the task analysis include any external cues or extra prompts that have been added to the task (i.e. turning the pages in a picture book)?

  3. Have all the components of delivering reinforcement been considered?

    • Is the reinforcer individualized to the student's needs?
    • Has the student satiated to the selected reinforcer?
    • Is the timing of the reinforcer correct?
    • Is the schedule of reinforcement appropriate?
    • Have the naturally occurring reinforcers become meaningful to the student?

  4. Can the task be modified for the specific problem area(s)?

    • Are there simple equipment adaptations that can be added to assist the student?
    • Can extra cues (e.g. visual or tactile) be added to the task?
    • Can coworkers provide assistance during a difficult portion of the task?
    • Can the location of task completion be modified to decrease distractions?

Finally, the information generated during community-based vocational training should be shared with future teachers and adult service agencies

to facilitate the transition process from school to work. Figure 5

in the appendix of this chapter provides a community-based training summary for one student who participated in the Vocational Options Project. The information generated from vocational training during her junior year was then available for her teacher, parents, and adult service providers for job placement decisions during her final year of high school.


In summary, the benefits from training in integrated community work settings are many. First, and perhaps most important, vocational training

provides students with experiences in order for them to make informed choices concerning employment post graduation. Even students with the most severe disabilities will be able to indicate choices through behavioral feedback to their teachers such as working faster on one job site vs. another, smiling (or screaming) while performing a task, completing a job duty needing only those reinforcers that are natural to

the work site (i.e. coworker presence or supervisor praise), and so forth. Community-based vocational instruction also can increase parental

and e