When the six Henrico County [Virginia] students with autism started job-training internships last fall at St. Mary's Hospital, most wouldn't make eye contact with each other or the hospital staff.
Yesterday marked a milestone for the students -- they not only completed the internships with more job skills and greater confidence, but they also got job offers to work at St. Mary's.
"The whole goal is competitive employment," said Paul Wehman, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor who is lead investigator for a federally funded research project looking at job training models for people with disabilities, including autism.
Bon Secours, VCU, Henrico County Public Schools and the state departments of Rehabilitative Services and Education are all partners in the job-training effort.
The high school students who were enrolled in the research were assigned randomly to classroom-based skills training or on-the-job internship at St. Mary's based on the Project Search work training model for people with disabilities.
The Media Access Office (MAO) was founded in Hollywood in 1979 by Fern Field Brooks, and Performers with Disabilities, a group of experienced and aspiring entertainment professionals. The group included performers with a range of physical conditions (wheelchair users, amputees, hearing impaired, sight impaired) as well as neurological conditions (performers with Down syndrome, autism, Tourette syndrome).
[J] ob opportunities are increasing for persons with disabilities in movies and television, and to a greater extent the portrayal of persons with disabilities is changing.
Take the disability/ability of autism. In the past few years autism has exploded in popular culture, with portrayals of persons with autism in popular fiction, television and movies. This current year alone has seen two movies, Temple Grandin and Dad's In Heaven with Nixon, centered on a person with autism. Further, unlike the movie Rainman, which largely portrayed an autistic as an object of curiosity, these movies show persons with autism as bringing strengths to the job world and society.
The interaction of popular culture and the labor markets is a complex one. There is no question, though, that a greater presence of persons with disabilities in front of the camera will have impacts on hiring both within and beyond the entertainment industry.
The Age of Autism notes recent legislation in Connecticut providing a tax credit to employers of people with disabilities:
House Bill 5435, an Act Concerning the Recommendations of the Majority Leaders’ Job Growth Roundtable was a plan to address the need to create jobs in Connecticut. Section 9 in the attached link is the language of the legislation (HERE) And wow! People with autism were part of that plan.