Pathways to paid work for youth with severe disabilities: Perspectives on strategies for success

Michele A. Schutz, Ben Schwartzman, Jessica M. Awsumb, Leah Burgess, Erik W. Carter, Julie Lounds Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Paid work during high school serves as a steppingstone to postsecondary employment for young adults with severe disabilities. Yet, youth with significant cognitive impairments rarely have the opportunity to experience paid work during high school. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to identify the range of facilitators that promote paid employment for youth with severe disabilities during high school. METHODS: We conducted individual and focus group interviews with 74 special educators, adult agency providers, school district leaders, parents of youth with severe disabilities, and local employers. RESULTS: Participants discussed 36 facilitators spanning nine major categories: Collaboration, training and information, attitudes and mindsets, supports for youth, youth work experiences, knowledge and skill instruction, staffing, individualization, and transportation. We identified similarities and differences in the factors emphasized by each of the five stakeholder groups. CONCLUSION: Renewed attention should be focused on key practices and partnerships needed to facilitate community-based work experiences for youth with severe disabilities prior to graduation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-26
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023


  • autism
  • facilitators to employment
  • intellectual disability
  • Paid employment
  • transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Occupational Therapy


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