Teaching a Vocational Task to an Adult with Autism

When Lucas celebrated his 18th birthday, he was officially an adult. He participated in some pre-vocational and vocational tasks for the few years prior to his 18th birthday through his IEP at school. The next summer as part of an Extended School Program (ESY), Lucas started volunteering at a local hotel for an hour each week. There were all kinds of jobs at the hotel providing lots of opportunities for Lucas and his team to explore vocational tasks for him and other adolescents and adults with various disabilities.

As we continue teach Lucas to complete different job tasks, I thought I’d explain (with my Behavior Analyst hat on) how I break down and teach any vocational task to Lucas and learners with similar abilities.

In this 1-minute video clip of me teaching Lucas to roll utensils inside a napkin, the first step is to determine what the finished product should look like and if there are any important quality issues to consider. For example, the utensils need to be clean and the napkin needs to be tightly rolled so the silverware does not fall out. For a simple task such as rolling utensils, the napkin can be unrolled to see how it was folded, how the silverware were arranged, and how the napkin was rolled. For a more complex task such as setting up banquet tables and arranging the tables, it might be helpful or necessary for an employee or someone proficient at the skill to demonstrate how the job task is performed from start to finish.

Whether the job is simple or complex, there needs to be a determination whether the student or adult you are working with can complete the whole task or part of the task. The amount of supervision or assistance by a job coach or teacher also needs to be planned. Once a task is selected, a task analysis should be completed. A task analysis is a written list of the steps that are needed to complete a task. These steps can be written or typed on a data sheet so that data can be collected to ensure that the student is learning the steps. Next the job is modeled (for students who can imitate) or physically prompted. Practicing a skill at home or school can also be helpful, especially if there is one or two steps that are more difficult. Once the individual starts completing the steps of the job with no errors, prompting and assistance can systematically faded.

Watch this 1-minute video clip of the rolling utensils job task!