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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Autism, Employment, and the Life Cycle

CNN Headlline News discusses challenges over the life cycle, including employment:

In Rochester, Minnesota, The Post-Bulletin reports on the need to help HFA adults navigatee the job market:
“They need people in their life to help them stay on track, and if they have that support, they are the Einsteins of the world, the Bill Gates of the world. They have phenomenal potential to become contributors to society,” said Susan Powers, co-founder of Social Odyssey, an Olmsted County-based support group for family member and individuals with high functioning of autism.
Powers' group is asking local lawmakers to support a pilot program aimed at providing individuals with Asperger Syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders with the jobs skills training and support they need to be successful. At a rally at the Capitol on Monday in honor of World Autism Awareness Day, Rochester Republican Sen. Carla Nelson touted her bill to set up the pilot program. A former special education teacher, Nelson said these students often excel in school thanks to the support in place to help them. The hope is that if there are resources available to help individuals in the workplace, they can continue to succeed. Her bill would allocate $60,000 to provide employment support to these individuals in Olmsted County
Previous posts have discussed businesses that hire ASD people who can focus on detail. Bloomberg Business Week reports:
The newest entrant into the space in the U.S. is a Los Angeles-based software and design firm called Square One. The company has a small pilot program working to design a software-testing training program for people on the autism spectrum. The project grew out of conversations between company co-founder Chad Hahn and his wife, Shannon, who works with the developmentally disabled. Hahn, along with experts his wife led him to, has put together a software-testing curriculum that he’s now in the process of teaching to an inaugural class of three. The course he’s designed relies not on written instructions but on a software tool called iRise to create simulations of the sort of problems the trainees would confront in an actual work setting.
Hahn is also trying to develop a work environment that would be friendly to those on the autism spectrum, for whom the social interactions of a typical workplace can trigger paralyzing anxiety. For some people, Hahn says, that might mean ensuring that there’s a quiet room or a set of headphones they can put on to block out the buzz around them; for others it’s making sure there’s a counselor there to talk to whenever they need it. Hahn says he’s in talks with Warner Bros. and LegalZoom about software-testing contracts.
But what’s most original about Square One’s approach is how resolutely bottom-line-oriented Hahn is. Specialisterne only worked because of generous Danish subsidies for employing the developmentally disabled, and Aspiritech is a nonprofit. But for the time being Hahn is committed to the for-profit route.