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VCU-ASD Career Links Project Overview and Case Studies

by Alissa Molinelli, Jennifer McDonough, Paul Wehman

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In January of 2009, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) contacted Bon Secours to determine their interest in collaborating on a research study funded through the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The CEO, Mr. Peter Bernard was very interested and set up a meeting between VCU and the Bon Secours leadership team. VCU brought in Erin Riehle from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to share the Project SEARCH model with Bon Secours. VCU proposed establishing a Project SEARCH research site
for students with ASD at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital. Before we left that meeting, Bon Secours had agreed to hostthe Project SEARCH site.

The Project SEARCH model is a one-year educational program for students with significant disabilities in their last year of high school. It is targeted for students whose main goal is competitive employment in the community. The program takes place in a healthcare or business setting where total immersion in the workplace facilitates the teaching and learning process through continuous feedback and application of new skill. The program runs parallel to the 9 month school year.

Students assigned to Bon Secours participate in a 9 month internship experience which includes:

  • On-site classroom activities: resume preparation, job interviewing, problem solving skills
  • Completion of three 10 week internships
  • Possible job placement at completion of the program in an entry-level job matching skill set and interest

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The contents of this flyer were developed under a grant from the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) grant #133A080027 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Education and Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution providing access to education and employment without regard to age, race, color, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, veteran’s status, political affiliation, or disability. If special accommodations are needed, please contact Jemmifer McDonough at (804) 828-1851 VOICE or (804) 828-2494 TTY.