Vocational Rehabilitation


Fostering employability and belonging

Gainful employment is a key social determinant of health for all people. It enhances the quality of life, psychological well-being, and contributes to healthier aging for vulnerable populations.

Across the United States, individuals with disabilities, particularly those with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), face a disproportionately high level of unemployment and underemployment. While 60 to 70 percent of individuals with ASD report a desire to find gainful employment, only 35 percent are able to maintain steady employment with supports.

Potential employers often exhibit a lack of knowledge about the possibility of employing such individuals or uncertainty related to the level and/or type of supports that could be used to successfully scaffold the employment. Likewise, employers are often unaware of the specific knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes (KSAAs) acquired by these individuals and may have low expectations. In turn, individuals with autism are not taught specific skills that foster employability or socialization within a traditional school curriculum. With limitations in curriculum and exposure, individuals with autism, just like their neurotypical peers, experience decreased quality of life while their perception of discrimination increases when their skills are underutilized.

Hands in Autism® has worked with Indiana’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services over the years to conduct gap analyses and needs assessments, serve on the state’s Transition Advisory Council, and run regional trainings. We developed and now run three-day transition and vocational programming workshops through the HANDSmade program, and continue on as a vocational rehabilitation and pre-employment transition services provider.

Strategy and goals

  • Our common curriculum content allows individualization and innovative training and services across a range of provider and service groups, settings, and individual profiles across the lifespan.
  • We build local capacity for targeted coaching and mentoring options.


The HANDSmade™ Program fosters increased vocational and independent living skills within a supported employment setting for individuals with ASD and related disabilities. The HANDSmade™ Program is an initiative through the HANDS in Autism® Center in partnership with Riley Children’s Hospital and IU Health.

Learn more about HANDSmade

Site collaborations

Active job readiness training or skills teaching sites​

  • Riley Volunteer Services
  • Riley Cheer Guild
  • Patient Education and Patient Experience
  • Deaconess Riley Children’s Services
  • Deaconess Specialty Services
  • Riley Library
  • Ronald McDonald House
  • NICU Nest
  • Riley Nursing Education

Competitive employment sites

  • Nutrition Services
  • Sodexo Environmental Services
  • Dental School
  • Riley Dental MSA

Sites in development​

  • Riley units (9E/8W)
  • IUH Guest Relations
  • IUH Volunteer Services
  • IUH Patient and Visitor Services
  • IUH Patient Transportation