Employment Supports for Transition-Aged Autistic Youth | Organization for Autism Research


Presented on
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Jennifer McDonough, MS, CRC
Alissa Brooke, MS, CRC, PBSF
Length: 60 minutes

Employment Supports for Transition-Aged Autistic Youth

Transition-aged autistic youth face numerous barriers to employment as they exit the school system. Teaching both employment and social skills in real work settings is key to a successful transition into the workforce. With more than 10 years of experience implementing internship programs for autistic students with extensive support needs, Jennifer McDonough and Alissa Brooke share specific examples of supports implemented in the workplace to assist individuals in obtaining and maintaining community integrated employment.

Jennifer Todd McDonough has been a faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and working in the field of employment for people with disabilities for over 20 years. She earned her M.S. from the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University in Rehabilitation Counseling. Ms. McDonough is the Associate Director of Training at VCU-RRTC. She is also the Project Director for two national research studies – one related to customized employment for transition youth with ASD and/or ID and one related to employer practices of hiring and retaining employees with disabilities.

Additionally, Ms. McDonough provides technical assistance and disseminates resources nationally to individuals with disabilities interested in employment. Ms. McDonough is a national expert on Social Security Disability Benefits and Work Incentives. She also serves as the Virginia Project SEARCH Statewide Coordinator and directly oversees four Project SEARCH sites for youth with autism and/or intellectual disabilities. Throughout her career with VCU-RRTC, Ms. McDonough has worked directly with individuals with disabilities assisting them in locating employment and determining accommodation needs.

Alissa Brooke has been with VCU-RRTC since 2008. Alissa earned her ACRE certification for community rehabilitation and began working as an Employment Specialist. She earned her MS in Rehabilitation Counseling from VCU in 2012 and became a CRC, and also completed training to become a Positive Behavior Support Facilitator. In 2013 she began to serve as the Center’s Transition Coordinator. Alissa has experience working with individuals across disabilities and in the last four years has provided leadership for our Project SEARCH site at St Mary’s Hospital, working exclusively with youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She is focused on supporting choice, customized employment, job retention, and using assistive technology and positive behavioral supports.

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