Inspiration can come along when you least expect it. For Shannon Nash, an attorney in Atlanta, that inspiration was her autistic son Jason. Jason was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old. Doctors and therapists were skeptical about how much progress he would make as he got older, setting the expectations for her son at a very low level.
Jason is now 16 years old and needs continuous speech therapy for probably the remainder of his life. Despite needing therapy sessions along with other day-to-day struggles of being on the spectrum, Jason has made a lot of progress. He has excellent receptive language skills according to Nash and she is currently considering sending him to a Minnesota based program to earn his associate degree that will help him succeed in the workforce.
Nash had never anticipated that her son would be able to even consider higher education as an option, but now that it is she is worried about his job prospects. According to a 2012 study from Washington University only 55% of young adults with autism had a job over a six-year period following completion of high school. The chances of being unemployed and/or not continuing their education are more than 50% greater for young adults with autism when compares to their peers with other disabilities.
Nash decided that she would start looking for resources for her son ahead of time so he wouldn’t become part of those statistics. “I thought surely my search terms were off or there was something wrong with me, but the more I looked, I found very little,” Nash explained. This is when she came up with the idea to build a job board website, called “Autism Job Board” which will not only have searchable job postings, but also information for employers on best practices for hiring and employing people on the spectrum. So far she has received positive responses, although building the job board itself has been a slow process.
Apart from pushing to get more employers registered on her site she hopes that the job board will eventually be able to host job fairs across the country. She remains optimistic that employment opportunities will grow over time for people on the spectrum, “We want to educate people and make them understand this is a workforce to really get behind, and I can tell you it’s going to happen because it’s too many kids aging into adulthood.”