Identifying and Selecting Job-Site Supports

by Katherine Inge

The role of an employment specialist is to assist all customers including the worker with a disability, the coworkers, and employer in identifying and reviewing the variety of support options available and developing the most effective training plan. The employment specialist should never assume that workplace supports will be available automatically to the new employee. Even if a resource exists, the worker with a disability may not know how to access or benefit from its use. In addition, the employer and coworkers may not know how to modify the available supports in order for them to be effective for the new employee. The "trick" is for the employment specialist to provide the least amount of intervention possible for the worker with a disability to be successful while maximizing the supports of the workplace. This may mean that the employment specialist assumes the role of planner, consultant, or technician depending on the particular work task receiving instruction. Some questions to consider when developing a plan for job site training are:

What are the possible training options?

  • Natural Cues
  • Coworker Supports
  • Naturally Occurring Reinforcement and Prompts
  • Added Reinforcement, Cues, and Prompts
  • Self-management - Self instruction
  • Compensatory Strategies

What are the customer's choices?

  • Who does the worker with a disability want to provide the training support?
  • Do the employer and coworkers want to provide the support?
  • What is the employer's level of comfort and ability to provide the needed support?
  • Can the employment specialist act as a consultant to the coworkers and/or employer and assist them in assuming the support? How quickly can this be accomplished?
Which support option results in or promotes customer independence?
  • Has the team, including the customer with a disability, discussed the support needs of the worker and developed a support plan?
  • Are coworkers available to provide consistent feedback and instruction?
  • Is there stability in staff scheduling so that the customer can rely on a specific coworker(s)?
  • Can the employment specialist and/or coworkers assist the worker with a disability in responding to the naturally occurring supports and cues of the workplace? How quickly can this be accomplished?
  • Can the customer learn to use a compensatory or self-management strategy to regulate his/her work performance?
For More Information:

Brooke, V., Inge, K.J., Armstrong, A., & Wehman, P. (1997). Supported employment handbook: A customer-driven approach for persons with significant disabilities. Richmond, VA: Virginia Commonwealth University.

Inge, K.J., & Tilson, G. (1997). Ensuring support systems that work: Getting beyond the natural support versus job coach controversy. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 9, 133-142