The job market is rough these days. It’s even rougher for those who have been diagnosed with autism. A survey published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reports that people with intellectual disabilities were five times more likely than those with autism to have been employed since leaving high school. Paul Shattuck, associate professor at Drexel University’s Autism Institute in Philadelphia, says,
“More and more jobs in our economy require that you successfully interact with other people as part of your job. That is your job. This is uniquely disabling for people on the autism spectrum.”
However, people with autism have unique strengths, which can be harnessed with the right accommodations. They are happy doing repetitive tasks that would bore many people, such as cleaning bus seats or assembling buttons. Many also have an affinity for technology, art, or music, which can be valuable to employers. Many parents, who spent their child’s early years advocating for educational opportunities, are now focusing their energy on creating employment opportunities for their adult children with autism.
The nonPareil Institute in Plano, Texas, is a non-profit organization that trains adults with autism to create digital games and apps. The organization was created five years ago as a means of developing the founders’ children’s love of technology. They have developed five apps, a couple of games, with several more in the works, according to Dan Selec, CEO. The training program costs $675 per month, has grown to 130 students, and is in talks to expand to seven more cities. Aaron Winston of Dallas joined the program three years ago, after an unsuccessful attempt to attend community college. He had no technical skills at the time, but is now a full-time employee. He says,
“If it wasn’t for nonPareil, I’d probably be struggling through college or doing some type of job I’m overqualified for.”
Ireland and her colleagues are working with Autism Speaks to help other parents follow their lead. Together they created a digital tool kit to help people with autism get and keep jobs, and they are sharing their story with organizations in Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, and Scottsdale, AZ.
Autism Daily Newscast also recently ran stories on Harry’s Buttons in Chicago, and Roses for Autism in Guilford, CT, detailing other successful businesses employing adults with autism that were started by parents. Programs like nonPareil and Extraordinary Ventures offer a template to help parents create jobs for their adult children, and for other smart, hard-working individuals with autism.
To find out more about Extraordinary Ventures visit their website at: www.extraordinaryventures.org/
For more information on nonPareil visit their website at: www.npitx.org/