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!

The Autism Difference

Shannon Rosa with son Leo (Source: Huffington Post)

May is Mental Health Month and Shannon Rosa shares her experience of being a parent with a 13-year-old autistic son with some very important points on gaining perspective from an autistic child’s point of view. Unlike many people Shannon found the updated statistic from the CDC, which states that 1 in 68 children are autistic, to be a comforting number. For her, it just serves as a confirmation that her son is neither “damaged or broken – he’s an example of human variation, like any kid.” And as CDC’s Dr. Colleen Boyle states, “It may be that we’re getting better at identifying autism,” which simply confirms research that the autism community has been gathering for years.

Shannon admits that her son’s differences used to upset her and it was a part of him that she found hard to accept. However, with more information and support she has come to understand her son’s differences as something to be accepted and getting him the best resources to accommodate his needs was an important part of this. Getting others to understand autistic children is an ongoing effort. For example, Shannon explains that many parents should not just give up hope after their child hits puberty since many autistic people develop skills throughout adolescence and adulthood. We should also be more aware of sensory overload and how they can lead to their child having a meltdown and so on. She leaves us with these points on how to view/interact with her son Leo and children like him on the spectrum, especially if you are not a parent of an autistic child or unfamiliar with autism:

  • Leo isn’t waiting around for other kids to be friends with him. If he is spoken to with respect, then he may or may not interact with you.
  • Just because he cannot communicate as well as you doesn’t mean he is less intelligent. If you talk about him as though he isn’t there he will remember and be unlikely to trust you.
  • Getting both Leo’s attention and eye contact can be overwhelming for him. He makes eye contact on his own terms, but please don’t demand it.
  • Sometimes it takes Leo a minute to process what you’ve said to him, so just give him a moment instead of trying to simplify your language or shout in his ear.
  • Leo finds it calming to have sensory input such as sifting through pebbles, bouncing on a trampoline, or having a heavy blanket on his lap.
  • If Leo is fidgeting, tapping or exhibiting any other repetitive behavior, if it is not an inconvenience for you then just let him be as it serves as a soothing activity for him.
  • Leo is happy. Although autistic children experience frustration sometimes with communication or sensory overload they can be just as happy and joyous as any other child, something we tend to forget when messages about autism center around pity and prevention.

To read the original article, click here

For more resources on how to understand and care for autistic children, check out our International Autism Conference featuring:

Dr. Pamela Wolfberg, who will be presenting on Integrated Play Groups: Guiding Children with Autism in Social and Imaginary Worlds with Typical Peers.

Brian Iwata, who will be holding a workshop on Functional Analysis and Treatment of Severe Problem Behavior.

Marth Herbert, who will be presenting Taking a Fresh Look at Autism: Chronic Dynamic State–not Fixed Trait

To see these presentations/workshops and much more, CLICK HERE!