Neurodevelopmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Project SEARCH

About Project SEARCHTM

Project SEARCHTM, founded in 1994 at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, is a nationally and internationally recognized program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are interested in training and preparation for competitive employment. Under the leadership of J. Erin Riehle and Susie Rutkowski, there are currently more than 200 Project SEARCHTM programs throughout the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada.

Visit the Project SEARCHTM Website:

The Project SEARCHTM high school transition program is a school-year program for 18-21 year olds with intellectual and developmental disabilities that provides training and education leading to competitive employment. It serves as an alternative for students in their last year of high school.

The cornerstone of Project SEARCHTM is total immersion in a large business. Five days a week, students report to the host business, learn employability skills in the classroom and develop job skills while participating in a variety of training experiences on-site at departments throughout the host business.

The Project SEARCHTM partnership involves a large business, a school district, a not-for-profit agency that provides employment supports for people with disabilities, state vocational rehabilitation services, and state offices for people with developmental disabilities. Each Project SEARCHTM student participates in 2-3 training rotations during the academic year, each lasting from 8-10 weeks in length.

The training opportunities are a means to provide students with work experience that will prepare them for the workforce, by providing students with hands-on opportunities to learn transferable job skills.

The Project SEARCHTM staff works with the students to provide the supports and accommodations needed to allow the student to be successful at the training site. Students are also taught how to utilize "natural supports", such as co-workers in the worksite placements, to assist in their day-to-day duties.

Project SEARCHTM New York

The B. Thomas Golisano Foundation brought Project SEARCHTM to the Greater Rochester Area and provided the essential funding to develop the local partnerships. The NYS Developmental Disability Planning Council also provided funding for initial coordination of Project SEARCHTM. The expansion of Project SEARCHTM in New York State and current coordination is funded by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) serves as the statewide coordinator for Project SEARCHTM in New York State. Working in collaboration with the Project SEARCHTM team at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, SCDD is able to provide technical assistance to communities who are interested in starting a Project SEARCHTM program. Please contact us for more information.

Project SEARCH Brochure


Contact Us

Susan Hetherington, Ph.D.
Project SEARCHTM NYS Co-Director
Co-Director of Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities
Susan Hetherington

Julie Christensen, Ph.D., LMSW
Project SEARCHTM NYS Co-Director
Director of Employment Programs, Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities
Julie Christensen



The Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities is a University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

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