There are many challenges. From what I can tell, community programs designed to support young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have not been established at the level required to serve the upcoming "boomlet" that will no longer be eligible for support from public school systems. There is a need for more vocational rehabilitation counselors and job coaches who have extensive training and experience working with young people with ASD.
If this is a topic that interests you, take the time to read the following paper:
Scott Standifer, Ph.D. This document, in my opinion, is must-read for parents, educators, community job support professionals, VR counselors, etc.
Most existing programs and services for adults with significant disabilities were established when the numbers of youngsters with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were low. At the same time, funding for existing programs has been reduced in many communities across the U.S. Job-skills training and employment opportunities are rare, given our current economic climate and the fact that a high percentage of non-disabled adults are unemployed.
In my opinion, advocacy is part of the solution. Parents, caregivers, guardians, and educators to become better-informed about what transition resources are currently available in their own communities. Perhaps more important is to learn about successful programs in other counties, regions, or states. How was the program established? How is the program funded? If the program was established in collaboration with a university or community college, find out about it and share the information with university/community college leaders in your area.
The power of the web and digital media:
Although the number of "hands-on" programs might be disappearing, the Internet has the potential to provide a wealth of resources and a means for parents of young adults with disabilities to connect and share across regions.
To do my part for advocacy, I've started collecting resources related to transition for students with significant disabilities, including autism. I will post these resources in a couple of months and welcome input from my readers.
In the meantime, I'd like to share a couple of website that I'm adding to my resource list.
The folks from Do2Learn have created the Job Tips website, "designed to help individuals with disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder explore career interests, seek and obtain employment, and successfully maintain employment".
Although I found the site a bit difficult to navigate, it was worth taking the time to explore. It includes extensive information about various jobs and careers, an on-line interest survey, social skills assessments, examples of job-specific environmental demands, and strategies for getting and keeping a job.
Although some of the material is suitable for higher-functioning students with disabilities, there is plenty that can be used with students who have developed some basic job-task skills but have not yet developed the appropriate communication, coping, or social skills required for most workplaces.
On the site, I found a good number of video modeling clips for "on-the job" social and coping skills, something that I'm focusing on during group activities with the students I work with at Wolfe school. I used some of the activities on the SMARTBoard with students last week, with success. What I really would like is a "serious game" related to on-the-job social, coping, and conversation/ communication skills. (It is possible that this wish might come true - stay posted for more information!)
The following information was taken from the Jobs4Autism website, a "resource of job success and job failure stories for individuals with autism, their family members, job coaches and caregivers. It allows everyone to share job ideas and help find long-term employment opportunities for those with autism."
Job4Autism was initially a collaborative project among four undergraduate students at the University of Notre Dame, guided by Professor Khalil Matta. The project was taken over by NameStormers, as one of the company's founders is the parent of a young adult with ASD.
Posted for your convenience is a list of some of the links related to Jobs4Autism, from the NameStormers website. I've added some descriptive information for some of the resources. Below this section are other related resources.
Autism Transition Handbook (Online)
Jobs4Autism Facebook Page
CNN: 10 sites worth checking out if your child has autism
Jennifer Bixler, John Bonifield, CNN, 4/1/10
Temple Grandin's TED Talk: The world needs all kinds of minds
"Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works -- sharing her ability to "think in pictures," which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids."
Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (Maryland)
"...a non-profit organization with a mission to provide a path for higher-functioning individuals on the Autism Spectrum to realize their potential through gainful employment"
Susan Senator, Author, Consultant, Mother of a young adult with ASD
Amelia Starr, Author, Consultant, Mother of a young adult with ASD
Lettuce Work Foundation (Ohio)
"The Lettuce Work Foundation is a non-profit 501c3 charity dedicated to serving young adults with autism and training them for the future. Our goal is to build a fully-operational, self-sustaining commercial greenhouse business that provides school-to-work transition services, job training and employment opportunities for young autistic adults in a professional work environment."
Autism Society of North Carolina
Autism Society's Transition to Adulthood Guidelines (pdf)
ASMC Supported Employment, Mecklenburg County, NC
TEACCH Supported Employment for Adults with Autism
TEACCH Types of Supported Employment Jobs
TEACCH Supported Employment Models
The Arc of North Carolina: Supported Employment Info
The Arc of Union County: Employment Services
Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders Project
Current Trends in Autism Employment (pdf)
Scott Standifer, MU Disability Policy & Studies
Autism Works National Conference, March 3 & 4, 2011
"Nationally, the number of people with Autism applying for vocational rehabilitation services increased 300% from 2003 to 2008."
More to come!