Michael: Supplementing Job Coaching with Natural Supports


Michael is a young man in his 20s who has been employed at a facility-based workshop since he graduated from high school. Although in the past AEI has helped him attain multiple jobs, Michael struggled with retaining them. Michael has needed ongoing support to stay focused, and his propensity to be distracted became an impediment to his success. This success story illustrates how identifying shortcomings in previous on-the-jobs supports can lead to an improved understanding of current needs. Michael's job developer met those needs by supplementing his job coach with the use of natural supports.

The job search

In the beginning of Michael's job search, AEI decided it would be advantageous to meet with Michael, his service coordinator from the state Department of Developmental Services (DDS), and others close to him to discuss employment options.  A comprehensive person-centered career planning session was held to identify an employment plan for him. During the planning process it was discovered that although Michael had held several community-based jobs, and appeared to enjoy them all, even with continued prompts and oversight from AEI staff he was easily distracted and would not take the initiative to ask his supervisors what he should do when he finished a particular task. It was obvious that Michael had the desire to work, but it was important to find a job that would provide more guidance to keep him on track. What was particularly useful in this planning was a critical self-evaluation of previous on-the-job supports and attention paid to new supports that could be put in place during this job search and placement process.

Over the course of the planning process, Michael was working as part of a supervised cleaning crew at AEI where he was performing various janitorial duties with the oversight of an AEI employment specialist. Michael expressed to the team that he would like to try janitorial work in the community. The job developer reached out to a contact he had at a local rest home, with the hope that the rest home would hire Michael as a part-time janitor's assistant. Michael's job developer met with the management of the home and with Michael's permission, discussed both Michael's strengths and his past impediments to long-term success. The job developer introduced the idea of accessing coworkers and/or a supervisor to provide needed support in addition to the job coaching he would provide during the training period. The rest home was very receptive and decided to give Michael a chance. With the use of natural supports, he has proven to be capable of performing the essential functions of the job and is no longer in need of a job coach on-site. Michael's coworkers continue to prompt him and check in with him, to ensure he completes tasks and moves on the next duty.

What happened

Michael now works four days per week as an assistant for the maintenance team at the rest home. Michael not only performs janitorial duties but also assists with small maintenance jobs such as plumbing, repairs, and landscaping. Michael reports that he is very happy with the new job. AEI has worked with his supervisor to adjust his schedule in order to help his grandmother (with whom he lives) with her grocery shopping and other household responsibilities. He also states that his income allows him to assist with household expenses, which makes him proud. Michael no longer attends the facility-based workshop, although he occasionally stops by to see some of his friends. He has become a role model for other individuals who may be unsure of making the commitment to a job in the community. AEI keeps in very close contact with Michael's supervisors and they report that he is doing very well and continues to be receptive to new duties.

lessons learned:

  • Use planning to evaluate previous placements. AEI used a comprehensive career planning strategy to not only identify employment goals and develop an employment plan, but to critically self-evaluate the factors which had led to Michael's difficulty retaining jobs.
  • Consider support needs at the time of placement. Michael's job developer facilitated and negotiated his need for coworker and supervisory support, in addition to his job coaching, at the onset of his employment to set Michael up for success.
  • Recognize the value of natural supports. The supervisors and coworkers are able to provide the level of support that Michael needed to stay focused and productive at work.

For More Information, Contact:

Jaimie Timmons
Research Associate
Institute for Community Inclusion
University of Massachusetts Boston
(941) 929-7115

John Raposa
Attleboro Enterprises, Inc.
284 John L Dietsch Blvd
North Attleboro, MA 02763
(508) 695-4046 x105