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Friday, October 28, 2016

A Great Program: Exceptional Minds

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Many posts have discussed programs to provide them with training and experience.

One such program is Exceptional Minds, a visual effects animation studio in Hollywood.

Exceptional Minds is a full-time, 3-year vocational program where students learn to do visual effects, animation and title work specifically for the entertainment industry.
"The program would teach them not only the technical skills that they needed but the work readiness skills that they needed in order to get a job," said Ernie Merlan, EM program director. "So we focus on how they look and what their attitude is and organizing themselves and problem solving on their own and then work place conflict, which is something I think we all have but learning how to deal with it is a little tough."
Exceptional Minds also has part time and summer programs for younger children.

It is costly to run a program like Exceptional Minds. Most families can only pay partial tuition. The program provides financial assistance to every student at the school.
Some students find jobs immediately after finishing the three year Exceptional Minds program. Other students work first at the Exceptional Minds studio. There, students gain connections to Hollywood’s major entertainment studios, like Marvel, Fox and Sony. They get to work on movies and television.
Ernie Merlan says the exacting, creative nature of animation seems to fit for some people with ASD. But, he hopes that Exceptional Minds can serve as a model program for teaching other vocations to those on the spectrum.
“Our dream is that we can show other people how to do what we’re doing. That they can in their own towns can figure out ways that these individuals can be useful to the town to the local industry and have them be a part of society.”