Now is a great time for people with disabilities to find a job. In August 2022, the U.S. unemployment rate was at 3.5%, the lowest in 50 years. As employers scramble to fill open positions, job opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are better than ever. In the past, people with IDD were trained to perform jobs specifically created for them. Today, they’re encouraged to choose work that fits their talents and interests them. With additional supports, many people with IDD can successfully compete for and work at any job.

Like many agencies, Aspire offers an array of supports to advance employment opportunities for people with IDD. You will find many different employees involved in helping individuals find and keep jobs including employment specialists, DSPs, managers, clinicians, and behavior therapists.

Here are four ways Aspire can support individuals to join the workforce:

Competitive Employment

For individuals whose skills would enable them to be successful on the job with natural supports, sometimes all that is needed is help identifying and applying for the right jobs. In competitive employment, staff support the person to explore their interests and understand what a good match between their interests and skills and a job’s requirements would look like. Staff then helps the person look for job postings, write their resume, complete applications, and practice for interviews. Once the person has a job, the person relies on the natural supports in the workplace.

Supported Employment

Supported employment is a great option for people with more significant needs. It’s when an Aspire staff would need to be present, or at least available, to help train and coach the person on the job. Initially the tasks for the staff are similar to competitive employment.

The staff builds a relationship with the employer, learning about the job and how to best support the individual in this setting. This support might involve helping the person communicate, using task analysis to help the person learn job responsibilities, or teaching the person how to manage conflicts. Support is sometimes faded out, but can be ongoing.

Customized Employment

For people with the most challenging needs, customized employment can make employment a realistic goal. In customized employment, the staff relationship with the employer starts even before the person applies for a job. The staff works with the employer to develop a custom job description that would both bring value to the employer and accommodate the unique skills and needs of the person. Typically, staff support is ongoing throughout employment.

Customized employment can look quite different from the typical job. Hours might be brief and tasks might be very focused. For example, individuals supported by Aspire have assembled boxes at a pizza place, brought recycling to the transfer station for a school, and collected stray golf balls at a country club.

Starting a Micro-Business

Starting a micro-business or self-employment can be a good alternative for people who have things they enjoy making or services they like to provide. Individuals supported by Aspire have sold t-shirts, jewelry, crafts and dog biscuits. They have walked dogs, shoveled snow, done laundry and mowed lawns. There are resources to help individuals to create business plans that meet legal and financial requirements.

Want to Learn More?

If you’d like to learn more about supporting people to join the workforce, the Relias training platform offers several courses related to employment for individuals with IDD including Employment Support, Customized Community Careers, Customized Self Employment, and Transition to Adulthood – School to Employment. Relias also offers two DSP certification tracks: Community Employment Specialist and Community Inclusion Specialist.


Supporting People with IDD to Join the Workforce