Document Type

Occasional Paper

Publication Date



With the persistently low competitive employment rate for working-age people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), a main focus area for the field of disability research has been on the interaction between the individual and the service system. Yet we know much less about the interaction between systems and families around employment. Family engagement is key to successful employment and life planning, often leading individuals with disabilities on the path to employment when family members serve as role models for work ethic and behavior. Family members may also provide logistical support, including coaching and advice, help with planning and organizing work schedules and activities, and transportation and other resources. Moreover, research has shown that a person with IDD is most likely to be employed when their parents want them to be employed and believe that they can work. Despite these findings, we also know that parents often lack adequate knowledge to support their child’s transition to adult life. Family factors found to influence outcomes include lack of information about work incentives and fear of losing benefits.

This brief: Summarizes what we know about the effectiveness of strategies being used to inform, engage, and support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families in the development of a positive employment vision; Introduces a new line of individual and family engagement research that culminates in the development of a “small touch” intervention and strategy. This strategy addresses unemployment of people with IDD as an information mismatch between service systems and the family system. Addressing this mismatch can result in improved engagement, expectations, education, and outcomes in community employment.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.