Advocates for supportive and customized employment say that in too many parts of the country, school and vocational counselors still suggest sheltered workshops as the only option. And the cooperation needed between families, employers, and social services agencies to make employment work can be tough to pull off. Wendy Parent helped one-high-school student work up a business plan to sell Kansas University souvenirs in a local coffee shop. The business and high school backed the plan, but the plan fell apart when Parent couldn't find a job coach for the girl. "You're going to find weaknesses in every community," she says. "But this is the time to experiment and try new things."
For more on how families can start planning a working future for children with autism, check out APSE (formerly the Association for Persons in Supported Employment) and its Network on Employment, which provides advocacy and education on supported employment, as well as the University of Montana's Rural Institute, which helps families find resources for supported employment. The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Workplace Supports and Job Retention at Virginia Commonwealth University has pioneered research on creative ways to employ people with disabilities and is a gold mine of information on transitioning to work or college.