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Employment and Autism Spectrum Disorders...

Employment. While so many of us take this aspect of our lives for granted, employment is often elusive for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. One way to increase the competence and success of students with autism spectrum disorders in the workplace is to create opportunities for students to gain successful experiences in real life work situations while they are in their teen and preteen years.

During June of 2015, we launched our initial Transition Programming, focused on students building employment skills in local businesses, through volunteer opportunities. In each of three volunteer opportunities, students engaged in work tasks, in partners and small groups. While students worked on site, parents met as a group, with a facilitator, to discuss ideas related to building students’ independence and opportunities in the workplace.

In the spring of 2021, we began a more robust transition program. Students began creating Puppy Go Home kits for a dog breeder, and learned how to create and produce materials for this breeder. They engaged in visits to the breeder, socialized the puppies, and saw first-hand how their bags were being used by the breeder. In the summer of 2021, the program expanded again. Students engaged in resume creation, job application completion, and interview practice to apply for and gain positions within the expanded program, The Bigger Piece. From there, students worked on teams to create and build an Etsy Store that focuses on creating pet products. Students are involved in all parts of the business, from creating products, advertising, website developing, finance monitoring, and serving customers.

Currently, we are continuing to expand our employability programming. Students are engaged in weekly volunteering activities while learning about the areas focused on in the Ohio Means Jobs Readiness Seal. Each month, there is a focus on a new area of employment readiness: punctuality, discipline, work ethic, professionalism, teamwork, collaboration, learning agility, critical thinking, problem solving, career management, oral communication, written communication, and reliability. Students will be learning about these skills and concepts in the classroom and then applying what they learned during their weekly, hands-on volunteer experiences. They will also practice self-evaluation by rating themselves on a rubric of the focus area skills each week and receive feedback from intervention specialists about their ratings, strengths, and areas of growth. Providing hands-on employment experiences along with direct instruction in these soft skills is essential for building opportunities for positive outcomes in employment for individuals on the autism spectrum.

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