Project SEARCH for youth with autism spectrum disorders: Increasing competitive employment on transition from high school

Authors: Wehman, P., Schall, C.M., McDonough, J., Kregel, J., Brooke, V., Molinelli., A., Ham, W., Graham, C. W., Riehle, J. E. Collins, H. T., & Thiss, W.
Year Published 2013
Publication Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions.
Volume 15
Number 3
Pages 144-155
Publisher Hammill Institute on Disabilities and Sage

Transition from school to work for youth with ASD is an ongoing problem for the public education system. Teachers also struggle with their attempts to match the strengths of a particular student to a job. Project SEARCH is a transition program for youth with disabilities. In this model students rotate through full day internships in businesses to gain work and related skills that may lead to an employment offer for some.Others have a positive work experience to highlight as they apply for jobs in their communities.Project SEARCH helps facilitate the transition from school to work.


The purpose of this study was to determine how a Project SEARCH approach would work for youth with ASD.


The student internships took place in a large hospital.


Two case studies were presented for two young men with ASD. A 19 year with autism and a 20 year old with Asperger Syndrome as well as severe scoliosis.

Data Collection

The following data demographics, internship characteristics, job coach interventions was collected for each young man.


There was no control or comparison condition.


One young man participated in internships in the hospitals' radiation, engineering and infection control departments. His performance improved over time and he was offered a job in the infection control department working 20 hours and week and earning $9.14 an hour.The other young man participated in internships in the Coronary Care Unit, Biomedical Durable Equipment, and Intensive Care Unit (ICU). His abilities also improved during the internships. After completing the internships he was offered a job working 20 hours a week in the ICU earning $9.14 per hour.


A Project SEARCH approach appears to be an effective way to assist youth with ASD with transition from school to work. This study was part of a larger study researching the use of Project SEARCH model to serve youth with ASD. The results from this larger study should help shed light on this topic.

Disabilities Autism Spectrum Disorder
Populations Male | Black / African American | White / Caucasian | Transition-age youth (14 - 24)
Outcomes Employment acquisition | Increase in hours worked | Wages | Other
NIDILRR Funded Yes
Research Design Case reports
Peer Reviewed Yes