New Greenhouse Looks to Hire Those on the Autism Spectrum

Jan Pilarski and her son Chris Tidmarsh stand outside their aquaponic greenhouse, in which they look to employ individuals with autism.

Around 90 percent of individuals on the autism spectrum are unemployed. One mother has taken it upon herself to change this.

Jan Pilarski, of South Bend, Indiana, has a son with autism. He graduated from Hope College with a degree in chemistry and environmental studies. Though her son Chris was successful in landing a job in environmental research, he shortly lost it and had to move back home.

“Nearly all of his peers with autism were chronically unemployed despite having post-secondary degrees,” Pilarski says. “Our world seemed small and bleak. I didn’t have much hope to change the minds of potential employers to help Chris get a job.”

Jan took the “opportunity to be entrepreneurial” and started a prototype aquaponic greenhouse, employing her son and others diagnosed with autism. The prototype was successful, and the mother and son team turned to the internet to fund a larger, commercial project. According to Jan and Chris, each greenhouse will produce more than 45,000 pounds of vegetables per year and employ five individuals with autism.

So far they have been able to raise more than $15,000, well over their initial goal.

Their efforts are part of a larger, national trend to support young adults with ASD as they enter the workforce.

ICare4Autism, a non-profit affiliated with Shema Kolainu, is undertaking several different workforce initiatives- including the Global Workforce Initiative which works on collaborating with major business entities to examine and discover the best practices and transition plans for those diagnosed with autism that then can be replicated globally.

Another program- Project Autism WORKS- will focus on training young adults with autism for the workforce. Partnering with local schools, ICare4Autism will then refer job-ready, potential candidates for positions in area businesses, like Walgreens- whose workforce already consists of 25 percent disabled employees.

Programs and developments like these will be the topic for discussion on the first day of ICare4Autism’s international conference being held in New York City on June 30, 2014.

Already in New York State, Senator Chuck Schumer is pushing for legislation (the AGE-IN Act) to develop programs similar to the one Jan and Chris created.

“Food has great power and potential,” Jan writes on the Huffington Post. “For us, it has made our lives whole once again and been a path for greater inclusion for Chris and others with autism. Indeed, a place at the table of life.”

To learn more about ICare4Autism’s local and global workforce initiatives, read here:

To watch the video on Jan and Chris’s greenhouse initiative, follow the link here:


Senator Pushes For Autism Support Services


Senator Chuck Schumer is proposing an act intended to help young adults with autism transition into the workforce and higher education. It is expected to be voted on in early 2014. Continue reading

New Companies Hiring Autistic People for Their Unique Skills

A new company called Meticulon is looking to specifically hire people with autism to be specialized information technology consultants.

The chief technical coach of the company, Michael D’Souza, explains that there are many benefits of hiring autistic people.

“They can focus strongly on a particular task and identify problems the rest of us might miss,” he said. “A neurotypical person’s brain can gloss over errors in repetitive tasks. An autistic person’s brain won’t.”

The company has financial support from Autism Calgary and Sinneave Family foundation, but strives to start generating a profit.

The company’s website explains its confidence in having the best services because its employees, who are all autistic, have “exceptional qualities”. Meticulon claims to therefore provide “the highest quality consultants in our industry”.

Similar companies have been previously founded in Europe and have done well, such as the Danish firm Specialisterne and the Belgian company Passewerk.

Finding a job with autism can be extremely difficult. Standard companies find it challenging to hire those with autism because of the unique resources and types of support they need. It’s difficult and costly for companies to build a support network for a person with autism.

But companies like Meticulon are seeking to change that situation, to make sure that autistic people are hired and also feel comfortable at their job. They provide the guidance and support in the work place that prevents autistic workers from becoming overwhelmed by difficult social situations they occasionally face in a job.

The application process to get employed by Meticulon is not easy, however. There’s an assessment process to figure out the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses and to measure their abilities, and then applicants go through a multi-week training program.

The company’s goal is to have employees who are extremely specialized, loyal and attentive workers. This is how they will compete in the consulting market. The company really believes that its employees will be the best.

By: Rachel Schranck

Parents Look Out for Adult Kids with Autism and Create Jobs Themselves

With Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) affecting the social and communication skills of those diagnosed, getting a job and then maintaining it, can be very challenging. Each year, 50,000 children diagnosed with autism reach the age of 18. Not all make that transition into college, and even less enjoy the stability of a job.  Experiencing the lack of jobs or careers for those diagnosed with autism, parents of adults with autism hashed out an innovative company that caters to this group of the population.

Extraordinary Ventures is a non-profit business born in Chapel Hill, NC. Lori Ireland, along with other parents, wanted to ensure that their children had a future applying their unique skills to jobs that fit them best. Extraordinary Ventures businesses include, cleaning city buses, making gifts or candles.  If someone is into the outdoors, maybe they can work at an organic farm, or if artistry is where their interest lies, they might have a hand in a silk screening t-shirt business.  An idea such as this helps ensure peace of mind for parents who know they won’t be around every step of the way with their children.  Instead of kids being frustrated by not doing anything day in and day out, this provides them with a productive outlet.  This idea has grown such that Autism Speaks is collaborating with Extraordinary Ventures to hold Town-hall style meetings in 9 cities around the country. The purpose is to educate people about how small and local businesses can employ those diagnosed with autism, and initiate discussion on the importance of doing so.

According to a survey published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a little more than 50% of high school graduates, with an ASD diagnosis, have held a paid job. This is the lowest number on the scale of those affected by a mental disability including emotional issues, speech and language disorders, and learning disabilities. Paul Shattuck who is an associate professor at Drexel University’s Autism Institute in Philadelphia, and who helped conduct the research says that the underlying reason for those affected with autism not having a high job success rate could be their lack of social and communication skills.

According to him, “More and more jobs in our economy require that you successfully interact with other people as part of your job — that is your job.” This “is uniquely disabling for people on the autism spectrum.” This is where Lori Ireland’s Extraordinary Ventures business comes in. It helps integrate those diagnosed with autism into society, and makes them a viable member of it.

Read more here: