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Help Wanted: An Investigation of Professionals’ Approaches to and Perceptions Regarding Vocational Development When Working with Young Adults with Autism or Down Syndrome

head shot of Rachel Semel

Name: Rachel Semel
Major: Communication Sciences and Disorders
Minor: Education
Advisor: Joan E. Furey, Ph.D.; Cara Hammond (second reader)

The purpose of this study was to investigate the vocational development for young adults, aged 18-22 with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDDs), specifically autism or Down syndrome, as they transition from school to the workforce. To complete this study I distributed a survey and completed interviews, question professionals in the field about their approaches to vocational development as well as their perceptions of the aspect of workforce development they find to be most effective for this population. Previous studies about similar topics were focused on disabilities as a whole, and not specifically autism or Down syndrome. In addition, previous studies surveyed the individuals receiving services or their families and had little focus on the perspectives of the professionals themselves. A total of 123 professionals completed my electronic survey, and seven professionals participated in follow-up interviews. Results of this study suggested that more resources need to be given to those in vocational development programs, as professionals consistently indicated that transportation was their biggest barrier. In addition, having more resources would allow professionals to work with individuals at a smaller ratio, so they can further individualize their supports. Individualization was another key takeaway from this study, as professionals consistently stressed the importance of focusing on the individual and providing them with the supports they need.

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Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022.


18 responses to “Help Wanted: An Investigation of Professionals’ Approaches to and Perceptions Regarding Vocational Development When Working with Young Adults with Autism or Down Syndrome”

  1. Whitney Hockman says:

    Amazing job Rachel! I am so proud of you for your hard work and pursuing your passion of helping people at transitional moments in their lives. What was your favorite part of your research?

  2. Dante King says:

    Congratulations Rachel!! Research like yours certainly needs to be done, and you did an amazing job! Thank you for sharing your findings! 🙂

  3. Katie Fong says:

    Congratulations Rachel! So proud of you, this is amazing work!

  4. Bambi Vargo says:

    Hi, Rachel, As a retired Special Ed teacher, I applaud you for this significant research. Congratulations!

  5. Cathy Semel says:

    Having watched your dedicated work to gather this data, it is so great to see it pulled together and analyzed with such practical application. Great poster, great job!

  6. Danielle Nasoff says:

    So proud of you Rachel! Congrats!!

  7. Angie Bos says:

    Hi Rachel: What an important project! I am really impressed with the large sample of professionals you were able to survey – I know that takes a lot of work and creativity – well done! Best, Prof. Bos

  8. Michael Semel says:

    Great job with this project Rachel from start to finish. So incredibly glad that you were able to bring your passion for working with young adults with IDD into an independent study project that really contributes to our understanding of what is needed to better support this population…based on the voices of such a large number of professionals in the field. This work should be important for driving future decisions by policy makers who fund these services.

  9. Lily Anderson says:

    Wow Rachel this is really amazing! Congratulations!!

  10. Julia Klein says:

    Great work! If you’d like a connection to the fantastic leaders of Vista School in central PA please reach out.
    Best wishes,
    Julia Klein ‘83
    Trustee

  11. Saralee says:

    Good job Rachel! I’m so proud of you!

  12. Rhiannon Johnson says:

    I’m so incredibly proud of you!!!! This is a fantastic study, and it’s so amazing to see your passion run through this IS. Congrats, love you so much!

  13. Rachel Jones says:

    Congratulations Rachel!! I’m so proud of you!!

  14. Hannah Groetsch says:

    Great job Rachel!

  15. Rachel Semel says:

    Thank you Whitney! I really enjoyed the interview process, as I got to hear firsthand accounts of what professionals’ experiences were in the field. It was great for getting some more information and reasoning to back-up what I was finding through my survey results.

  16. Carly McWilliams says:

    Thanks for sharing this awesome project, Rachel!

  17. Abby McFarren says:

    Congrats Rachel! You did such a cool project. So proud of you!

  18. Meri Langevin says:

    Wow, Rachel. I couldn’t be more proud of you. You did an outstanding job and so much research. It certainly brings out your dedication to those of greater need.