January 8, 2016

Workplace success for the developmentally disabledIndividuals with disabilities face extraordinary challenges when it comes to finding and maintaining employment in our society.  Whether in mainstream workplaces or specialized vocational centers, the role that employment plays in helping these persons with disabilities regain their independence is of utmost significance. In this blog post, we will discuss the best ways to help individuals with disabilities be successful in their respective workplaces by utilizing the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).


A visual schedule is a list of activities or tasks prepared by the organizer (e.g. supervisor) which he/she expects to be carried out, usually in some specific order and based on a timeline. Individuals with disabilities often rely primarily on visual schedules to organize their work day. A visual schedule provides structure and predictability which can be very effective in decreasing any undesirable behaviors. Additionally, visual schedules can aid in the often difficult transitions from one activity to the next.


A task analysis is the process of breaking a skill into smaller, more manageable steps in order to effectively teach the skill. The task analysis skill is taught as a chain of behaviors. There are three main procedures for teaching behaviors in a chain – forward, backward or total task chaining.


Establishing clear expectations for persons with developmental disabilities can increase job performance and eliminate maladaptive behaviors. In applied behavior analysis, we call these expectations Rulegoverned behaviors. Examples of rule-governed behavior in the workplace are company policies (e.g. dress code, job description, call-out policy) as well as company values that set them apart from others in the industry (e.g. teamwork comes first, quality is king).


The Premack principle is one of reinforcement which states that an opportunity to engage in more probable behaviors or activities will reinforce less probable behaviors or activities. In other words, “I will do my homework as long as it is followed by watching TV.” In the context of the workplace, “I will be on dishwasher duty as long as it is followed by my favorite job which is greeting customers at the door.” The Premack principle can be a great tool when determining how to cross-train employees who have become so rigidly used to the same activity and are resistant to change.


Fading supervision in the workplace involves using increasingly less supervision in order to minimize labor and maximize output. Fading from the workplace will most times occur naturally as the employee masters his or her job responsibilities. However, supervising individuals with developmental disabilities can inadvertently foster prompt dependence where the employee comes to rely on the supervisor standing over them. In such cases, fading supervision becomes a systematic method of withdrawing prompts (verbal or non-verbal) so that the individual can perform these skills independently.

Epic Health Services is proud to employ developmentally disabled individuals and we utilize these principles on a regular basis. For employment opportunities and/or information on our developmental services, contact us today!


Matthew Cassano
Epic Developmental Services