Utilizing co-workers as "Natural Supports" evidence on cost efficiency, job retention, and other employment outcomes

Authors: Cimera, R. E., Wehman, P., West, M., & Burgess, S.
Year Published 2001
Publication Journal of Disability Policy Studies
Volume 11
Number 4
Pages 194-201
Publisher Hammill Institute on Disabilities and Sage

Much discussion has taken place about the use of natural supports in supported employment. However, a review of the literature indicates empirical evidence supporting or refuting the concept is lacking.


The purpose of this study was to provide empirical research on the use of natural supports, coworkers without disabilities, as a training strategy for supported employees.


A variety of job sites in Illinois where individuals who received supported employment services worked.


The initial sample included 166 individuals with a primary diagnosis of mental retardation, who were 21 to 69 years old. The majority or 66% were European American and 34% were African American. Of these 166 individuals 31 were replaced because they were lost to contact or the support agency refused to participate or the person did not want to participate. Of 197 (166 plus 31 replacement) surveys mailed, 111 were returned, resulting in a 56% return rate.

Data Collection

A survey was sent to the adult service providers of 166 people who were included in the Illinois Supported Employment Projects database. The survey include questions related to: worker characteristics, Job coach/Co-worker involvement, Benefit-cost analysis, and Job separation. Dependent variables included: cost efficiency, length of employment, job retention, hours worked per month, gross pay, IQ,level of mental retardation, gender, ethnicity, age and number of disabilities. The independent variable was collected by the coworker Involvement Instrument that assesses the Involvement of coworkers in training supported employees. There was no control. Four analysis took place. The first compared employment outcomes to the degree of coworker Involvement. The second compared the supported employee demographics to the degree of coworker Involvement. Both of these analysis were repeated using data from 1990 and 1994. In addition, an analysis of variance were performed for the nominal-scale variables and Pearsonian correlation coefficients were generated for continuous scale variables.


There was no control or comparison condition.


The study found that coworker involvement did not increase cost efficiency. However, it did seem to increase the length of time the supported employees maintained their jobs. No other employment outcomes were related to coworker involvement. Coworker involvement was not associated with any of the demographic variables.


Utilizing coworkers to train supported employees does not increase cost efficiency. Coworker involvement appears to increase the supported employees job tenure. Coworker involvement was not impacted by the demographics of the supported employees, meaning that coworkers are willing to aid in the training of individuals with diverse disabilities and functioning levels.

URL http://dps.sagepub.com/content/11/4/194.full.pdf
Disabilities Specific learning disabilities
Populations Black / African American | White / Caucasian | Male & Female
Outcomes Increase in hours worked | Wages | Other
NIDILRR Funded Not Reported
Research Design Observational
Peer Reviewed Yes