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Successful work supports for persons with SCI: Focus on job retention

by Target, P., Wehman, P., McKinley, W., & Young, C.

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(2004). Successful work supports for persons with SCI: Focus on job retention. , 0, .

Article Summary

A study by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center indicated that 59% of individuals with a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) between the ages of 16 to 59 were employed at the time of their injury, but only 29% were working eight years later. While part of this difference may be attributed to the SCI, the absence of short and long-term vocational supports for individuals with spinal cord injuries may also be significant. Targett, Wehman, McKinley, and Young address the unique strategies required for successful vocational placement and job retention while also providing an excellent how-to guide for those interested in learning about supported employment for individuals with SCI.

Unique to the supported employment approach is the use of an employment specialist, or job coach, who provides support and assistance to the employee and employer both before and after the vocational placement. The authors show through a single case study how the unique vocational and daily living needs of individuals with significant physical disabilities are best met through supported employment. While the initial technical assistance that the employment specialist can provide is critical to the initial job placement, strategies to enhance long-term job retention are also integral to this process.

A successful vocational placement and retention plan is always individualized, but the following are general guidelines noted to help insure job retention for individuals with spinal cord injuries. They include: promoting choice and identifying jobs worth keeping, ensuring that employer needs are understood and met, providing all necessary supports, providing long-term supports, addressing ADL needs, and supporting career growth.

This is well illustrated in the case of Jason, a 56-year-old man with a spinal cord injury. While his placement into a position as a receptionist went fairly smoothly, the authors indicate how the employment specialist worked with Jason and his employer to solve several on-the-job problems, any of which could have terminated his employment. The initial challenges to employment primarily involved training and workplace accessibility. The employment specialist's continued semimonthly follow-up visits with Jason and his employer after six years on-the-job were instrumental in solving problems including hygiene, possible intoxication, personal management of his finances, and ongoing in-service training.