Title: Effect of a 9-Month Soft Skills and Work-Based Employment Training Program in Improving Transition Students’ Success: A Randomized Controlled Trial Study
RFA: CFDA: 84.324L: Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation of Special Education Interventions
Partner Institutions: Michigan State University (MSU), Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), and Project SEARCH.
Purpose: Work-related social skills, job readiness and employment outcomes for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) participating in Project SEARCH will be compared to those participating in a combination of Project SEARCH plus the Assistive Social Skills and Employment Training and Employment Preparation and Skills Support program (ASSET-EPASS). The interventions are being implemented in school districts in Michigan to respond to the need for improved transition outcomes for students with IDD and recommendations to increase the number of Project SEARCH sites in the state. Work-related social skills and job readiness skills are essential factors for successful employment for individuals with IDD.
Intervention: ASSET-EPASS is a 20-week manualized work-related social skills and job readiness curriculum implemented weekly (90 minutes per session) by the classroom teacher to address needs of transition-age students with IDD through a systematic approach.
Setting: Research will be conducted in Project SEARCH sites in Michigan school districts.
Sample: The sample will include at least 18 Project SEARCH sites in school districts across Michigan that serve approximately 162 high school students (ages 18-26) served under IDEA.
Partnership Activities: MSU will assign Project SEARCH sites to treatment conditions, will manage and analyze the data, and will lead dissemination efforts. MDE and MRS will assist with intervention implementation and coordinate data collection and transfer to MSU.
Research Design and Methods: This study includes a one-year clustered randomized controlled trial. Sites will be randomly assigned to either Project SEARCH + ASSET-EPASS (treatment) or to Project SEARCH as usual (control). Teachers will complete assessments for MDE/MRS three times throughout year 1; data will be entered into REDCap and transferred to MSU.
Key Measures: Primary outcome measures include vocational survey instruments. Work-related social skills and job readiness outcomes will be assessed with the Job Observation and Behavior Scale, the Transition Behavior Scale-Third Edition, and Project SEARCH reported employment outcomes.
Data Analytic Strategy: Data will be analyzed by fitting a linear mixed effects model that includes intervention group as a factor of interest, and baseline values and stratification factors as covariates. Intra-class correlation (ICC) will be calculated. Planned Contrasts will be specified to test the within group pre-post intervention effect. Interaction effects between site and group will also be examined. Additionally, chi-square tests will be used to analyze the dichotomous primary endpoint of employment outcomes.

This research is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R324L190002 to Michigan State University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education

Research on Supporting the School to Work Transition

gWenzel, J.D., Fisher, M.H., & Brodhead, M.T. (2021). Teaching job coaches to implement evidence-based strategies to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals.

pAthamanah, L.S., Fisher, M.H., Sung, C., & Han, J.E. (2020). The experiences and perceptions of college peer mentors interacting with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 45, 271-287.

Fisher, M.H., pAthamanah, L., Sung, C., & gJosol, C.K. (2020). Applying the self-determination theory to develop a school-to-work peer mentoring program to promote social inclusion. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 33, 296–309.

gPrice, R., gMarsh, A.J. & Fisher, M.H. (2018). Teaching young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities community-based navigation skills to take public transportation. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 11, 46-50.   

Research on Employment Outcomes for Individuals with IDD

pPark, J., Sung, C., Fisher, M.H., pOkyere, C., & pKammes, R.R. (accepted). Psychosocial and vocational impacts of COVID-19 on people with and without disabilities. Rehabilitation Psychology. (Accepted on 8/31/2021).

pAthamanah, L.S., White, K., Sung, C., Fisher, M.H., & Leader, G. (accepted). Employers’ perspectives on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in community integrated employment settings: A systematic literature review. Inclusion. (Accepted on 6/3/2021).

pOkyere, C., Sung, C., Fisher, M.H., pKammes, R.R., & pPark, J. (2021). The impacts and experiences of COVID-19 on employment for individuals with disabilities. Journal of Rehabilitation, 87(1), 25-32.