5-Year-Old Raises Awareness

Iris Grace and her cat Thula

Iris Grace is a five year old diagnosed with autism who picked up a paintbrush last year and has been making waves ever since. “It was her first painting I noticed a difference in her painting compared to how you … Continue reading

Resources for Students Transitioning to the Workplace


In Hawaii a student ages out of their public school system at 20 years old. For 1,800 special-education students, this meant that they could no longer finish high school and earn their diploma. But a recent federal judge ruling will actually change that. … Continue reading

Clearing the Air for Autistic Children


Preparing for a trip and going to the airport can be a stressful endeavor for many people, even those who are used to traveling. So for families with autistic children it is easy to imagine how the experience of being … Continue reading

Autism Students Are College Ready, Now What?

Male College Student Doing His Homework

Findings recently published in the Harvard Review of Psychology reveal that there has been a significant upsurge of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder applying to and arriving on college campuses.  Studying this particular increase is difficult, however, because “for every student … Continue reading

Using Technology as a Tool for Skill Development


Dr. Dana Reinecke gave a presentation at the 2014 International Autism Conference titled, “Technology Opens Doors for Students of All Ages on the Spectrum” where she discussed the best ways to use different aspects of technology to help those on … Continue reading

Collaboration Creates Positive Change for Children With ASD


A group of students and engineers at Kansas State University are collaborating with NGOs to develop technology that will improve the health and quality of life for children with severe developmental disabilities. Heartspring Inc. provides therapeutic and residential day programs to serve … Continue reading

Learning Digital Skills

autism expressed

Dr. David Mandell, director at the Center for Mental Health Policy & Services research, says “If our expectation is that people with autism will have opportunities available to them to fully participate in communities to be gainfully employed and to … Continue reading

Autism Takes Strides in the Workforce

There is a growing population of young adults who are on the autism spectrum that are now emerging into the professional world and unable o find a job for themselves. There are a large number of them who are classified as high functioning, who have achieved higher education, and who are more than capable of joining the workforce.

Only about 35 percent of young adults on the spectrum actually move on to postsecondary education, and of this 75 to 80 percent are unemployed when they graduate—which equates to about half a million people. Marcia Scheiner, president and founder of the Asperger Syndrome Training and Employment Partnership (ASTEP) presented these figures in a recent panel as part of Internet Week New York. She argues, “Today’s interview process is largely based around the concept of socialization: Your ability to network, your ability to interact with othersThis can be one of the biggest challenges for individuals on the spectrum.”

Scheiner’s approach through ASTEP provides support and education by, for example, persuading human resources at Fortune 500 companies and others to expand the neurodiversity of their workforce.

“People that already appreciate difference believe that by being more tolerant and being able to see different kinds of people, they are going to build a stronger team,” co-founder of software testing company “Ultra Testing” , Rajesh Anandan, says. The traditional methods we normally use to assess individuals don’t work so well for people on the spectrum, though, so how do we change the assessment so that it is informative for the employer as well as fair to other candidates?

Knack is a company that wants to use games to evaluate specific attributes and skills that an individual may have. Halfteck, the founder of Knack, says, “Games are very nonthreatening, because there is no interaction with peoplecausing anxiety, causing all sorts of other fears. Not everyone is good at interviews, not everyone is good at social interaction.”

Both Halfteck and Anandan believe that the employment rate for people on the spectrum will soon start to increase once there is data that proves that there are environments where people on the spectrum regularly outperform their neurotypical colleagues—driving an increase in recruitment.

To hear Marcia Scheiner speak more on autism workforce initiatives, come to Day 1 of our International Autism Conference! Click here for more info!

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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!

Obsessive Behaviors Can Be a Resource

As more research comes out on Autism and as we better observe children who have it, therapists, parents, and educators alike are coming to realize that certain behaviors that we may as abnormal may actually be behaviors that are beneficial for the progress of a child. One example is repetitive or obsessive behaviors.

Autistic individuals tend to have many different obsessions, but some common ones include, computers, trains, dates, science, or certain TV shows or movies. They will want to learn a lot about something they feel interested in and strongly about. These obsessions tend to give them a sense of structure and predictability, help them relax, and bring happiness in engaging in something that interests them.

One four year old boy, Owen Suskind, diagnosed with autism at 18 months, was obsessed with watching Disney movies. He would constantly rewind and rewatch and it seems that he was very focused and happy when doing this. When his family sat down to watch one of his favorites with him, The Little Mermaid, they noticed that he kept rewinding to a particular part of a song where Ursula is singing, “Just your voice.” Owen had been saying ‘juicervose’ for the past few weeks with no one able to understand what he was actually trying to say. The moment of clarity was a great moment of connection and celebration not only for Owen’s family but Owen as well. Owen’s speech and interests grown with his “obsession” for Disney movies throughout his childhood, and the more his parents were able to acknowledge and respect his interest the more the were able to connect with him and help him communicate. So these obsessions were actually helpful to his success and everyday functioning.

So perhaps we need to change the way we look as certain behavior patterns in autistic children. Obsessions can be used to increase your child’s skills and areas of interest, promote-self esteem, and encourage social behaviors. Parents and educators can think of ways to make theses behaviors a functional part of their children’s lives and ultimately help them to become successful and happy individuals.

To Read Owen’s Story, click here

For more information on Obsessive/Repetitive Behaviors and how to help your child, click here