Alex Irwin, an autistic teenager from Portland, Ore., went missing last Saturday during a wilderness hike. He was found the next morning by guests at a nearby wilderness lodge.
Alex is part of a larger group of individuals with autism that strayed from their homes and schools this year, and were deemed missing.
Alex’s mother Jill is working to combat this with a new program called PIE- Promoting Independent Experience.
“The tension between offering Alex opportunities for him to be independent, and navigating his safety, it’s always the most challenging,” Jill said. “I started to understand that underneath all these autistic behaviors, there was this teenage boy who wanted to start to have some control of his life.”
Jill began contacting local businesses to see if there were volunteer or job opportunities for her son. He now works at a non-profit Chinese garden.
“He leaves with a sense of pride I don’t think I’ve ever seen in him in his life,” Jill Irvin said.
Jill’s organization is expanding this idea to the rest of the autism community in Portland. She’s looking for local openings that can help individuals with autism, “learn new skills and demonstrate their potential.”
ICare4Autism, a non-profit organization affiliated with Shema Kolainu, is promoting a like-minded workforce initiative in New York. By providing workforce training and pairing with local stores like Walgreens, ICare4Autism is helping place young adults with autism into career and volunteer positions. You can read more about this program here :http://www.icare4autism.
For more information on PIE: http://piepdx.org/