Posts Tagged ‘employment’

Roses for Autism

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

The mission of Roses for Autism is to grow independence in the business world through a replicable Autism training and employment program integrated in a successful and sustainable rose business. The vision is to demonstrate a replicable working model for inclusive transitional employment for youth and adults on the Autism Spectrum. In 2011, Autism Speaks awarded $25,000 to Roses for Autism through its Family Services Community Grants program.

Roses for Autism is a unique venture, combining training and employment of people on the autism spectrum with the growth and sale of flowers. This is a business that not only employs people; it employs people who have an unacceptably high level of unemployment. The project location is Pinchbeck’s Rose Farm in Guilford, CT.

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Roses for Autism is unique, integrating three businesses in a single enterprise:

  • Employment and training for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Agricultural – Raising flowers in the country’s largest free-standing glass greenhouse
  • Sales – Rooted in autism cause-based marketing

Over the course of the grant period, we have learned:

  • It is not only the lack of job skills, but also the lack of social skills that hamper success in the workplace.
  • It takes time to successfully develop individual strategies for participants and transfer them to general work environments.
  • It is essential to offer other resources to participants outside of employment strategies.
  • Participants gained confidence, school grades improved and participation in the program is having a positive impact on people’s lives.

Demonstrating success:

Incidental reports from families, schools and program staff noted that some participants are reporting and/or exhibiting increased confidence, better grades in school and motivation to be more social. In some instances, participants are forming friendships with peers, staff and/or customers. One unexpected and extremely exciting success is the young man who after being driven back and forth to the program by his mother, learned to navigate public transportation to get to work independently. Desiring still more independence, he recently secured his driver’s license – a goal that was beyond his wildest expectations. He is now working toward saving his money from his job at the rose farm to buy a car.

Roses for Autism currently employs eight individuals on the spectrum that are working in an integrated environment for competitive wages. During 2011, 290,500 roses were sold.

For more information, please visit!

The grant cycle is officially open on February 17.

To learn about our newly announced RFA for Family Services Community Grants, please visit

Somebody Stole My Name! (but we’re friends now)

January 26, 2012 2 comments

This is a post by Dr. Scott Standifer, a Clinical Assistant Professor for the Disability Policy & Studies office (DPS) at the University of Missouri. He is the author of Adult Autism & Employment: A guide for vocational rehabilitation professionals, and the organizer of the Autism Works National Conference, March 6 & 7, 2012 in St. Louis, MO.

The first call came in 2008, just after I started work on the first Autism Works National Conference: “Hi Scott, this is Tracey with Autism Works…” the woman said.  “But, wait,” I thought, “That is MY project’s name…” Actually, I don’t have a copyright on the name, so it is legal for others to use it too. Still, it felt likeTracy stole my name.

Since then, I’ve had that same “Somebody stole my name!” feeling twice more as I discovered other groups with the same name. Who these groups are, and what we are each doing to advance autism employment, is a nice sample of some of the varied and vibrant approaches to this important field. Tracey, for instance, turned out to work for Community Gatepath, a Community Rehabilitation Provider (CRP) in California that had been given a grant for a special program serving adults with autism. They called it Autism Works.

A few years earlier, as part of my job helping state vocational rehabilitation agencies in four Midwestern states, I had discovered a profound lack of information about autism in the vocational rehabilitation community, and a similar lack of information about vocational rehab in the autism community. I ended up writing a reference guide on autism employment and starting the Autism Works National Conference.

Six months later, I found another Autism Works, this time in Minnesota. This one is a non-profit group that promotes not only employment, but also life planning and independent living for adults with autism. It was founded by Melissa Kenig-Davis, the parent of a young adult with Asperger’s Syndrome. Parent advocates are an important group in autism employment. They have started some of the most exciting autism employment projects in corporate America, including Randy Lewis at Walgreens and Heather Davis at TIAA-CREF. In Connecticut, parent Jim Lyman started Roses for Autism. In Missouri, parent Kate Duffy teaches job-seeking-skills courses for autism and has co-written a book on employment withTempleGrandin. Heather Davis, Kate Duffy, and Melissa Kenig-Davis were all at our 2011 conference.

And then it happened again – last summer, I found a group called Autism Works UK.  Peter MacDonald is the Director of Autism Works UK, which is part of a business movement spearheaded in the U.S. by Aspiritech in Chicago. These businesses hire adults with Asperger’s Syndrome to test computer software. Apparently, when innovative programmers finish their software masterpieces, they often don’t feel like going back to recheck every function and explore every possible input for mistakes. So they hire software testers. For us neurotypicals, software testing can be terribly boring; it requires lots of repetition, documentation, endless lists, etc. But for Aspies, routinized work like this is often appealing and easy. Aspiritech and Autism Works UK don’t market their services by pleading, “Please help these poor young people.” Instead they say, “Our unique workers do a better job than anyone else.” WOW! What an empowering message!

Peter MacDonald and I had a long talk about the challenges and opportunities of this exciting business model. Peter, Aspiritech, and folks from three similar companies will be on a panel at our Autism Works National Conference in March.

So even though each of our groups picked the same name, we are all engaged in different and complementary projects. Discovering these other Autism Works has taught me interesting new things about career options for adults with autism.

Lately I’ve had the feeling that somewhere, someone else is getting ready to choose the Autism Works name for some new kind of employment project. I can hardly wait.

What does an organic Santa Cruz microbrewery have in common with a national big-box chain store like Costco?

November 28, 2011 1 comment

Kate Bemesderfer is the Lead Instructor, at the Coryell Autism Center, Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing (SCMB) has earned a solid and well-deserved reputation for being more than just a purveyor of tasty organic microbrews and sustainable brewing practices. Brewery owners Chad Brill and Emily Thomas and their talented staff play a major role in Santa Cruz, California community-building. They have high standards, open hearts, and a creative, collaborative approach to just about everything they do. So it is fitting that, on top of everything else they do, SCMB is proving itself to be a valuable ally to the disability community by partnering with Coryell Autism Center to provide job opportunities for our students with autism.

When we approached Chad & Emily about offering an internship to Hunter, they took him in and treated him like one of their own, giving him real work and real compensation from the beginning.  No one at SCMB had much familiarity with autism or developmental disabilities, and the learning curve has at times been sharp.  Like anyone, Hunter has the occasional bad day at work, which means that his coworkers have seen him at his most difficult.  That’s why it’s been so impressive to see the staff of SCMB continue to accept and encourage Hunter to be his best.  It turns out that he has the same effect on them.  As Nicole Beatie, who handles Sales & Distribution for SCMB, puts it, “He’s not really different from any of us. He just needs a little more guidance than some, and probably less than others.  Everyone here has been patient and understanding with him, and that has made me feel good about the other folks I work with, too.”

After six months on the job, Hunter is a valued part of the SCMB team, and it’s a team that Hunter likes being on.  Every bottle of beer the brewery produces is hand-labeled by Hunter, who has learned not only to handle the labeling by himself, but to keep track of the inventory, and to set up the tap room and patio in time for opening. He works at the same rate as anyone else (sometimes faster).  He troubleshoots when supplies are missing, mislaid, or malfunctioning.  He keeps track of his work, noticing and correcting errors.  And he interacts both socially and professionally with the brewery staff, becoming an active part of his own community.  With Hunter’s help, the brewery has been getting bigger.  As the brewery continues to expand, so, too, do Hunter’s opportunities.  It’s a lot of work to keep up with the growing demand, so when the opportunity to increase distribution came to the brewery, Chad and Emily came to Hunter.

Not only is SCMB gearing up to open a second pub in Felton, but they’ve recently contracted with Costco—another of Hunter’s favorite places—to create 6-pack gift boxes of their most popular brews. Once the beer is in the bottles and the bottles are in the warehouse, the job of filling the Costco order falls primarily to Hunter.  SCMB has moved their post-production and storage from the small garage where Hunter started to a much larger warehouse a little farther down the road, so he rides his bike to work instead of walking.  Now, labeling bottles is just the first step in a process that involves taping together gift boxes, filling them with the bottles, sealing them with a hot glue gun, and organizing the finished product on a pallet, all while maintaining a retail-worthy aesthetic.  Hunter takes pride in getting it done right and making it look good.  It’s hard work, but it pays off—literally.  Hunter receives both a WorkAbility paycheck and trade from the brewery.  His favorite part of his shift comes at the end, when he returns to the pub for a nice frosty pint…of root beer!

For more information about Coryell Autism Center visit:

England’s National Autistic Society and Goldman Sachs Win Award for Employment Program

October 20, 2011 Leave a comment

England’s The National Autistic Society (NAS) and Goldman Sachs were awarded the Corporate Social Responsibility Project of the Year at the annual Charity Times awards 2011. The NAS and Goldman Sachs took home the award for their partnership, Prospects, which helps young adults with autism find paid employment.

Prospects, which offers one-to-one sessions and group workshops covering communication skills for the workplace, job-searching, interview skills, choosing an occupation and creating an effective CV, first began placing candidates with Goldman Sachs in 2003. Learn more about the award from the National Autistic Society site and on

Rachel Pollack LIVE Chat Transcript

October 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Rachel Pollack, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of Job Path, answered questions about employment, in recognition of October as U.S. Department of Labor’s National Disability Employment Awareness month.

Since 1978, Job Path has helped people with developmental disabilities find and excel in mainstream jobs where they work alongside non-disabled colleagues. Job Path graduates work in banks, retail establishments, restaurants and other organizations.

Hi Everyone, my name is Rachel Pollack, I am the Chief Operating Officer at Job Path, that provides among other things, employment services for people with autism spectrum disabilities. I have been working in the field for over 15 years, am a lawyer, and have a 22-year-old son with autism.
Comment From Lisarae

My daughter is 19 and will be losing her SSI on Nov. 10th. She has Apergers and will somehow have to make up that money in the job force. Is their hope? Can she do this? She is very high funtioning but just does not understand social ques very well.

Hi Lisarae – I don’t know why your daughter is losing SSI at 19 so you should consult with whatever legal services are available to see if there is anything you can do about that. YES there is hope you can find a job for your daughter- just be sure you are looking for a job that matches her strengths and interests. We find that when we work with people and match them to their strengths and interests we have very good success and up to 90% retention rate. Each state has state vocational services and providers that can work with you to help you find a job. I understand that the Autism Speaks Family Services page has a link to vocational rehabilitation services. The important thing it to be a consumer and interview those agencies and try to find one that matches your daughter.

It might be interesting for people to see what we have found works with people with ASD in looking for employment. We are looking for a customized employment approach that relies on a discovery period where employment specialists spend time in the home and community of people with disabilities. Learn about their interests, strengths, and needs then network with employers that has tasks employees can do in that environment.
Comment From Monique

Have you attempted to get your daugther an extension on her SSI?

Comment From Guest

We have a 17 yrs old son. He is very easily angered. Do you have any suggestions?

Hi Guest – If someone gets easily angered, the important thing is to think about what his trigger points are and to be looking for a job that doesn’t create those triggers. To have a job coach who understands what those trigger points are and who will work with him on those trigger points. We have also found that if that person is on the job and they don’t have a job coach there all the time, they can contact their job coach by cell phone when they feel angry. We have arranged with employers to have accommodations with individuals to remove themselves from the job situation when they are feeling under stress or have brief timeouts during the work day. The important thing is to find an environment that can help accommodate those individuals best.
Comment From Lisarae

@ Guest…A sensory room helped my daughter with anger….and swinging! We built a giante swing that gets her a good 12 feet in the air and she pumps long and hard! LOL

Comment From Lisarae

How do I retain these services you speak of?

As I mentioned, most state agencies have provider agencies that provide support and trainer. The important thing to do is perform research to see which agency provides as much individual attention as possible. There are some agencies around the country that are provider customized employment services, a starting place to find that would be to go to the website Marc Gold and Associates which is where we learned this lesson from
Comment From Guest

My brother is 40 with aspergers and is currently struggling to find work. Are there job training opportunities available, if so, where do I go to find them. His primary issue is social.

Currently, I don’t know of any specific job training programs geared to this group of people. The important thing is to encourage your brother to get training in an area that he likes, that he feels comfortable with, and that is going to play on his strengths.
There are, for younger people around the country, a range of college support programs, some are publicly funded, but many are privately funded. There are some specialized vocational internship programs – most of which are very extensive.
I always encourage parents, who are looking for an agency to work with them to do extensive interviewing. Often when you go into a state referring agency, they tell you who they think you should work with. You, as an advocate for your family member, should feel comfortable asking questions about the agency and also asking them for other possibilities. You will want to know about supportive employment programs as well as training programs. A training program will provide training in a particular set of skills. A supportive employment program will start with the abilities an employee has to help them find a job and then provide job coaching. You’ll want to choose whichever type of program you think is best for the family member you are trying to help. Don’t be afraid to call up the agency and ask if you can come in and talk with them. Any agency that is going to work well with an individual will be willing to do that. I am always ready to do that and I am very busy!
Comment From Jessica

I am currently working on my Bachelors Degree in Psychology, through the University of Phoenix. My goal is to work with special needs children, but I would like to keep my options open as to how exactly (teaching, counseling, therapy, etc). I was wondering, to achieve this goal, should I get my Masters Degree in Special Education, or in the Science of Psychology? Thank You for your time.

Hi Jessica – I think that a Master’s Degree in Special Education is a wonderful degree that you can use in any work that you are going to do with children or adults. Our director of employment services has a Master’s in Special Education that she has been using to provide individual guidance to adults and assistance for vocational rehabilitation. My understanding is that most special education programs have a range of tracks so that you can customize your degree to the kinds of work you think you may be interested in.
Comment From Lisarae

My daughter has pedantic speach….will a potential employer understand that in the interview process?

Comment From Lisarae

Does she need paperwork to enter an agency like that or just a diagnosis?

Comment From Lisarae

My daughter would do well working alone, like stocking shelves at night in a grocery or retail store, I think. Lets just hope those jobs are out there.

Every state agency is going to require different amounts of paperwork that the chances are the agency will want some type of documentation of a disability, but that will depend on the state agency. Many state agencies will send, if you don’t have the documentation you need, your daughter or son to a psychologist that they will pay for. In terms of the pedantic speech in the interview process, we at Job Path, try to downplay the interview process for the people we work with. A good employment agency will be introducing the employer to your strengths before her interview and will persuade the employer that the interview process is a more a chance to get to know your daughter than a test of her speaking abilities.
To your last question about jobs being available, one of the strengths of customized employment, we aren’t looking at open jobs, rather unmet needs by employers. The idea is to find tasks that aren’t being done by current staff at the busiest hours of the day, or at time of day when other people aren’t available, to to help staff who are overloaded, or to take other tasks other staff are doing that your daughter can do better. You are not looking for job posting as must as you are looking for specific needs of employers that they have not put in a job posting.
Comment From Michele Vics

I believe I am on the autism spectrum but I haven’t received an official diagnosis. How do I get around that when it comes to job seeking?

Hi Michele – If you are going to want an accommodation on a job, you are going to want to get an official diagnosis. If you want a referral to a psychologist, most state agencies will send you for an evaluation. In terms of job seeking, if you are having trouble with the interview process, it is very helpful to have an agency involve to help you network.
Comment From elizabeth

My son is nineteen and was diagnosed with Autism when he was four. We are fortunate to live in Texas where there is help for individuals throughout their school years to recieve help. He is currently going to a school that provide job training until he turns 22. He is not severe and can be quite pleasent to work with at times. During his high school years I worked on my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice and finished my Bachelors Degree in Social Management, I would like to work with children or with families with children of special needs, but am not sure where to begin. I have applyed at a large school district but have not had success getting through with them. What would you suggest? I am open to returning to school again…Sincerely, Elizabeth

I think it is terrific that you’d like to work in this field and your experience with your son will be invaluable. There are lots of opportunities for working with families of children or adults with special needs in the adult service system. The adult service system needs really, really good people. if you are not having success with your school district, I would suggest that you look for opportunities in the adult system, in your state.
Comment From Monique

Hi Jessica. I believe an the Masters in Special Eduacation will offer you more options. As long as the degree is a science degree you will be able to teach. So if the Masters in Special Education is a science degree you will be able to teach and work in your career of interest. So to me two is better than one. I just obtained my Masters of Science in Psychology from the University of Phoenix this pass June. Good Luck. Also, make sure you ask your academic counselor which offers you more options so you want be wasting your time.

Comment From Colleen

My son is 15 years old. Do you have any suggestions for how I can start working with him so he is better prepared for a job?

Colleen – 15 years-old is the ideal time to start preparing your son for a job. The most important thing is for him to have the expectation that he is going to work. Too often we work with young people who don’t have that assumption. Second, look for all types of volunteer activities in his community where he can gain self-esteem, connect with a range of people and obtain discipline and a work ethic. You might want to refer to the Autism Speaks Family Services Transition Tool Kit which will give you a range of idea most important thing in looking for internships or volunteer opportunity is looking for an environment where he will thrive so he will have success and feel motivated.My son was lucky to have a high school program that provided work experiences throughout his high school years and it was invaluable. Even if his high school doesn’t have that, you can look for that for after school and weekend activities.
Comment From Nancy

When my son gets a job, how can I make sure that the people he works with know how to work with him so he can succeed? I’m a nervous wreck!

Nancy, I think it is important if your son feels comfortable, to have him for and an advocate, discuss in advance with the employer how his disability may affect him on the job and what he needs to succeed. When we place someone with ASD on a job, we meet with the employer and staff before with the individuals permission and describe the ways in which the disability may appear and affect the person. Most employers that we work with this information, embrace it, particularly if they know they have a motivated employee who has skills and who will work hard
Comment From Liz

Our 17 yr old son at about that age took a cooking class at the FFA in our area. He is interested in being a dietician to teach people how to eat right. Also the YMCA has all kinds of programs in all kind of interests. Good luck!

By FFA are you referring to Future Farmers of America?
Comment From gail

do people with autism who work usually like to let everyone they work with know about it

Everybody has a different feeling about that. I would say that most people fall between not wanting anyone and wanting everyone to know. We have worked with some people who don’t want to disclose, but the young people that work with us are comfortable with their diagnosis and can explain it to the people that need to know.I am always touched by how accepting employees and colleagues are when given information to help them understand. A colleagues might be offended when someone interrupts them if they don’t’ know the person has a disability, but will be understanding they know what was behind that interruption. We are working with one young man with Asperger’s who is working full time a t a law firm. He has chosen to let all of his coworkers know about his disability. He gets very anxious at times and the firm allows him to leave the office and walk around when he feels this anxiety. They appreciate that his anxiety is often triggered by the fact there won’t be enough work for him to do. The firm is able to balance the amazing abilities and motivation he brings against the occasional anxiety.
Comment From Liz

Yes I do mean Future Farmers Of America. He brought home some yummy goodies from the week long summer class.

I thought it might be helpful to find some of the jobs that some of the people with ASD have found with our agency. We have placed individuals in data entry and clerical jobs, There are individuals doing research jobs. One man is working on the Geek Squad at Best Buy. We have many young people working on stock and retail jobs. We have two individuals working in libraries as page staff. Those are some examples!
Comment From sarah

i’ve heard about the idea of job coaches in the workplace. who pays for those and what do they do?

Each state receives a certain about of money from the government which they can supplement with state funding. In New York, job coaches are provided with funding from our state agency. Individuals don’t have to pay for it themselves and employers don’t have to pay for it either. You will have to look into what the funding is for your particular state.
Job coaches will help people learn a specific task, will help people adjust to a work place, will help gain natural support from the employer and then phase out over time. I think good job coaching is one of the most important things insuring success.
Comment From elizabeth

Gail, My son is autistic, but I don’t think it even dawns on him to tell anyone he is autistic. Most of the time he will not make eye contact with others, but he is getting better. His comprehension is not his strongest point, and we tend to go in circles alot!

Even if someone can’t tell an employer that their employer has autism, there may be an advocate that can do that. In those cases, the family can work with a jobs coach staff to inform the employer they have autism
In this particular economy it is understandable for people to feel discourage in finding employment for someone they care about with a disability. The good news is that we are just as successful in this economy as we have been in booming opportunities to find job placements. The important thing is paying attention to who the individual is and thinking creatively about where they can be an asset. It is very exciting work that we do and employment is making big differences in peoples’ lives.
For more information about Job Path Employment Programs, you can go to and place let us know if you have any questions or if we can help you!

LIVE Chat with Rachel Pollack of Job Path

October 14, 2011 4 comments

Please join us on Tuesday, October 18  at 4 p.m. (EST) for a live chat with Rachel Pollack, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of  Job Path  as she answers questions about employment in recognition of October as U.S. Department of Labor’s National Disability Employment Awareness month.

Since 1978, Job Path has helped people with developmental disabilities find and excel in mainstream jobs where they work alongside non-disabled colleagues. Job Path graduates work in banks, retail establishments, restaurants and other organizations including: Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, Modell’s Sporting Goods, Office Depot, ShopRite, Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center, T.J.Maxx, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens and Willner Chemists.  Job Path has also worked with law firms such as Paul Weiss, Rifkind,Wharton & Garrison; Cleary Gottlieb; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom & Affiliates, LLP; and Cahill Gordon & White. Our employment programs are designed to help anyone who wants to work, no matter the amount of support he or she might need.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October 4, 2011 1 comment

President Obama has issue a proclamation in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The President says, “During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we recognize the skills that people with disabilities bring to our workforce, and we rededicate ourselves to improving employment opportunities in both the public and private sectors for those living with disabilities.”

Click here to read the full proclamation.

And visit Autism in the Workplace on the Autism Speaks web site.

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