Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH is an intensive 9-month internship program that provides training, education and workforce development for students with disabilities. The goal is to help prepare students for competitive, integrated employment.

The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Project SEARCH program is specially designed for Central Ohio students in their last year of high school who have Autism and/or Intellectual Disability with Complex Social and Communication Needs.

Program Benefits

Student interns:

  • Receive services in a supportive environment to prepare for employment
  • Acquire competitive, transferable and marketable job skills
  • Gain increased self-awareness, confidence, and independence

Eligibility & Application Process

Participants must be:

  • In last year of high school eligibility, having met all requirements
  • Diagnosed with Autism and/or Intellectual Disability with Complex Social and Communication Needs
  • Eligible for Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD)

Interested students must apply, and student interns are accepted through a selection committee process.

To learn more about Nationwide’s Project SEARCH and the application process, please contact the Educational Service Center at

What To Expect

  • Project SEARCH student interns will participate in daily group instruction and gain hands-on employment skills by rotating among three 10-week unpaid internships.
  • Managers at the internship sites partner together with the Project SEARCH instructor and skills trainers to support each student intern.
  • In this unique Project SEARCH program, all student interns, skills trainers, and departments will have access to an additional layer of support through Nationwide Children’s Hospital Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders (CASD).
  • The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Project SEARCH program will be housed at the new Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion starting in fall 2020. 
A Day In The Life of a Project SEARCH Intern
  • Arrive at the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion
  • Group Instruction: Participation in lessons based on employability skills.
  • Internship Site: Participate in three 10-week onsite, non-paid internships.
  • Lunch
  • Internship Site: Return to internship department to continue learning job-specific skills.
  • Group Instruction: Reflect on the day and plan for the next
  • Depart

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the status of Nationwide Children’s Project SEARCH for 2020 because of COVID-19?

Nationwide Children’s Project SEARCH 2020 planning is still moving ahead. We are still on target for a launch in August as planned. If that is not possible, we will launch as soon as possible after that date.  Nationwide Children’s, the Project SEARCH Planning Committee and the Project SEARCH partners are committed to choosing our eight 2020 interns and starting the program in 2020.

Click here for more information as to how COVID-19 is affecting Project SEARCH

How will applicants be chosen since schools are closed during COVID-19?

For the application:

The Nationwide Children’s Project SEARCH Planning Committee has moved to a rolling application with a new deadline of August 19, 2020, or until we have selected eight Project SEARCH interns. 

For interviews and skills assessments:

Applicants will be contacted immediately after their application is initially reviewed for meeting the basic requirements to be considered for the program.  Applicants will be given information on how to do their interview (pre-recorded from home). In addition, the applicants will receive a list of five tasks to demonstrate for the Skills Assessment. The applicant will choose three of the five tasks to demonstrate from their home. Someone will video the applicant performing the task and that video will be sent to the selection committee. 

Do I need my school district’s approval to submit a Nationwide Children’s Project SEARCH application?

When you submit the Nationwide Children’s Project SEARCH application, you will need your school district’s approval as they are part of your IEP team and this is an educational service for students with disabilities who have IEPs. The school district will need to support the student attending the Nationwide Children’s Project SEARCH program both educationally and financially. There is a fee for the program. Your school district will collaborate and assist you with the Project SEARCH application and interview process. Your transition coordinator will probably be the main person to guide you through the Project SEARCH application process.

How will my student get to Nationwide Children’s Project SEARCH?

If your student is accepted, then your school district will work with you on arranging appropriate transportation to the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s.

My student and others gets a free and reduced lunch at school now. Will he/she get one at Nationwide Children’s Project SEARCH?

The school district and Nationwide Children’s Project SEARCH team will collaborate with the hospital to make lunch available for your student.

About Project SEARCH

The Project SEARCH site at Nationwide Children's Hospital is jointly funded by the Educational Services Center of Central Ohio (ESCCO), local education providers, and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) and are further supported by county boards of developmental disabilities, business partners and OOD vocational rehabilitation service providers.

Project SEARCH was originally developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and is the administrative headquarters for the organization. Learn more about them at