With Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) affecting the social and communication skills of those diagnosed, getting a job and then maintaining it, can be very challenging. Each year, 50,000 children diagnosed with autism reach the age of 18. Not all make that transition into college, and even less enjoy the stability of a job. Experiencing the lack of jobs or careers for those diagnosed with autism, parents of adults with autism hashed out an innovative company that caters to this group of the population.
Extraordinary Ventures is a non-profit business born in Chapel Hill, NC. Lori Ireland, along with other parents, wanted to ensure that their children had a future applying their unique skills to jobs that fit them best. Extraordinary Ventures businesses include, cleaning city buses, making gifts or candles. If someone is into the outdoors, maybe they can work at an organic farm, or if artistry is where their interest lies, they might have a hand in a silk screening t-shirt business. An idea such as this helps ensure peace of mind for parents who know they won’t be around every step of the way with their children. Instead of kids being frustrated by not doing anything day in and day out, this provides them with a productive outlet. This idea has grown such that Autism Speaks is collaborating with Extraordinary Ventures to hold Town-hall style meetings in 9 cities around the country. The purpose is to educate people about how small and local businesses can employ those diagnosed with autism, and initiate discussion on the importance of doing so.
According to a survey published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a little more than 50% of high school graduates, with an ASD diagnosis, have held a paid job. This is the lowest number on the scale of those affected by a mental disability including emotional issues, speech and language disorders, and learning disabilities. Paul Shattuck who is an associate professor at Drexel University’s Autism Institute in Philadelphia, and who helped conduct the research says that the underlying reason for those affected with autism not having a high job success rate could be their lack of social and communication skills.
According to him, “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.” This is where Lori Ireland’s Extraordinary Ventures business comes in. It helps integrate those diagnosed with autism into society, and makes them a viable member of it.