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Project Search

AAoM has been working on a transition-related initiative to implement locally called Project SEARCH. This is a nationally developed program started at Cincinnati Children’s Rainbow Hospital and now maintains 150 sites nationally. The program teaches young people with developmental disabilities to work successfully with business in their local communities. AAoM facilitates the collaboration of Community Mental Health (CMH) providers, educators, and business leaders to make this wonderful program a reality in our state. We are so pleased to assist in the expansion of Project Search in our state.

How it Works

Project Search requires:

  1. Education system: participating school system provides teachers needed to work with the student; teachers are placed at the school with the student for the last year the child is eligible for special education or when he/she has completed their high school graduation requirements.
  2. Community Mental Health (CMH): contributes job coaches/aides who are also placed in the businesses with the students.
  3. A business/organization: provides work site for up to 12 students.

The Process

  1. Special education students placed full time during last year of school eligibility.
  2. Students work with teachers/job coaches each day to learn jobs within the business that match skills and interests.
  3. At the end of the year the business has the option to hire the students who were most successful in learning the job (the business is not obligated to hire the student but most businesses find students to be very competent in the job for which they trained.

Commitment of the Host Business

  1. HR person works with teacher to match job description with individual and acts as liaison between teacher, student, job and job coach and the business supervisor.
  2. Must provide classroom or conference room. The teachers, job coaches, and students meet every morning and at the end of the day.

Advantages to the Business

  1. Provide employment opportunities to those with developmental disabilities at low cost/risk.
  2. With appropriate, intense training persons with autism are very successful at completing their jobs often exceeding productivity goals of neuro-typical peers. Repetitive, predicable jobs preferred.
  3. Greatly supported by the state’s Department of Community Mental Health (CMH). Both Education and CMH are looking for businesses to engage with to implement Project SEARCH.

Different from Traditional Programs

  1. Traditional programs allow approximately two weeks to learn a job
  2. Project Search provides a full year to learn the job increasing the likelihood of successful employment with minimal supports after the year has been completed.

Current Status

  1. In 2010-2011 Project Search was implemented at two Michigan sites including in Detroit at Blue Cross Blue Shield of MI and in Grand Rapids at Fifth Third Bank.
  2. For the 2011-2012 school year AAoM has facilitated the collaboration between West Bloomfield public schools, Oakland County CMH, and the Henry Ford Health System’s West Bloomfield Hospital to make PS a reality for 12 special education students, as they transition from their last year of school into the workforce.
  3. AAoM has brought together Wayne County, Detroit Public Schools, and CMH of Wayne County, to house another 12 students in this remarkable opportunity.


Our goal is to add another 10 sites in the next two years by identifying businesses with greater than 200 employees who want to be part of this opportunity to give individuals with ASD a fighting chance at gainful employment.

Go to Project Search for more information on the program.

Contact colleen@autismallianceofmichigan.org with questions or for more information.