Autism Mom Inspired

Shannon Nash with her son Jason, who helped inspire her to launch Autism Job Board, a new website for job seekers with autism spectrum disorder.

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.”

​Day 1 of ICare4Autism’s International Autism Conference will be dedicated to addressing issues of Autism in the workforce as well as discussing current initiative being made toward improving job prospects for people on the spectrum. For more information and registration, CLICK HERE!

Virtual Reality Interview Training For Autistic Young Adults

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and SIMmersion LLC and Morris Bell, a professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine have come together to create a program that gives adults on the autism spectrum repeated practice and feedback on their interviewing skills. This human simulation training program was based on software that was originally used to train FBI agents, but then modified for use by adults with psychiatric disorders.

“Adults with an autism spectrum disorder tend to have difficulties with social communication, which may interfere with them having a successful job interview,” says lead study author and research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “Or program helps trainees learn to talk about their ability to work as a team member so they sound easy to work with. They also learn how to sound interested and enthusiastic about a potential job, as well as convey that they are a hard worker.”

The training program lets users engage in a simulated job interview with a virtual human resources staff member named Molly Porter. The program uses voice recognition software to get responses where they have about 10 to 15 responses built in to simulate an interview conversation. There is also a virtual job coach that gives on the spot feedback to the interviewee’s responses. At the end of the program, they receive a score and if they get a 90 or higher they “get the job.”

This virtual reality program also allows for the person to identify their disability which is taken into account with the questions they get asked. It is also designed to get increasingly more challenging as the person improves their interview skills over time

The trial study was composed of 16 individuals ages 18 to 31 who received the program training and practiced about 15 to 20 virtual reality interviews and 10 individuals in the control who did not. They then had a trained actor to play a human resource employee who facilitated two baseline and two follow up interviews. These interviews were captured on video and viewed by actual human resources expert who did not know which interviewee had received the training program and gave them a score. For the role-play scores, the training group improved by 11 percent compared to 1 percent for the control group. In self-confidence scores, the training group improved by 22 percent compared to 7 percent for the control group.

The employment rate for people on the autism spectrum is still very low, where in 2009 only 33% of autistic young adults were employed. As autism diagnoses rise we need to address the growing concern of having opportunities available for these young adults, about 50,000 individuals turn 18 each year. If you know someone on the spectrum looking for job opportunities or how to be a better self advocate for themselves, we will be having presentations and workshops to address employment, technology, and the road to opportunity at our upcoming INTERNATIONAL AUTISM CONFERENCE!

Get more information and register HERE!

World Autism Awareness Day

Today April 2nd, 2014 is World Autism Awareness Day. The United Nations General Assembly highlighted this day in 2008 to celebrate the creative minds of children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. It serves to remind us that we need to create more opportunities for education, employment, and integration into society for autistics. Dr. Joshua Weinstein, CEO & Founder of ICare4Autism explains, “We have entered a new age of autism, characterized on the one hand by unprecedented incidence, and on the other by advanced research, earlier diagnosis, and progressively more effective intervention. The evidence is clear—autism and hope are no longer mutually exclusive, but the need for action has never been more urgent.”

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon also commented on the meaning of today saying, “World Autism Awareness Day is about more than generating understanding; it is a call to action. I urge all concerned to take part in fostering progress by supporting education programs, employment opportunities, and other measures that help realize our shared vision of a more inclusive world.”

And we at Shema Kolainu and ICare4Autism couldn’t agree more. Recently undergoing a project with our newfound partnership with the World Health Organization we are currently working on a global autism e-resource center that will create and improve access to autism information, research, and education across all companies and disciplines. This initiative is part of the UN’s resolution to make a comprehensive effort in managing autism spectrum disorder.

The UN recognizes that autistic people still suffer from discrimination and are denied fundamental human rights on a global and national level. Ban Ki-Moon further promotes that, “Schools connect children to their communities. Jobs connect adults to their societies. Persons with autism deserve to walk the same path. By including children with different learning abilities in mainstream and specialized schools, we can change attitudes and promote respectWhen we empower them, we benefit current and future generations.”

Schools and centers like Shema Kolainu aim to do just that, which is why we do not take our jobs lightly. Children are an important piece of the puzzle in creating a more inclusive society.

For the original article, click here