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A Ramp for Nat: Job Coaching for ASD & the Intellectually Disabled

Posted Jan 13 2013 4:40pm
I received this internship posting today, and I was reminded of what my grandma used to say about my brief visits to her down in Florida: “It’s only a crumb, but I’ll take it.”

First of all, let me say that the Lurie Center, who offers this posting, is an excellent, forward-thinking bastion of autism knowledge, compassion, support, training, and all the things we families with ASD look for. But the fact of this offering got me thinking about portions and crumbs, and having a seat at the table.   

JOB INTERNSHIP PROGRAM for young adults ages 18-30 on the AUTISM SPECTRUM offered at the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Aspire Program.

Internships are at established companies in the Boston area.*****9-week or 17-week placements with pre-internship preparation*****

This is an opportunity to refer students or graduates with Asperger’s syndrome and related challenges: The program’s goals are to:
* Offer interns work that is interesting and useful, where they apply job related skills that will help them to be prepared for future employment.
* Help participants learn the social aspects or “soft skills” needed to succeed in the workplace.
* Provide a Job Coach for on-site support and weekly off-site training and peer meetings to ensure interns have a successful experience.

First internships starting at the end of January. Sites are at established companies in the Boston area including three placements at Mass General Hospital’s finance and facilities management depts.
Internship Program

So I deduced from the careful, thoughtful layout of the opportunity described that it is a rare enough kind of thing that an autism organization attached to a major research hospital has to offer it.  But opportunities like this one should be common, should be offered everywhere!  For example, isn’t every employer required to accommodate in the manner described above, if prospective employees need such training? If we have to build ramps, shouldn’t we also be building in Job Coaches and soft-skill training?

It reminds me of the finishing schools around here that some autism families have to send their graduated kids to (for big bucks) because the school system did not train them adequately, or simply ended too soon for them to acquire the skills they needed. Why do autism and ID families just accept this kind of educational approach? Shouldn’t the school system be required to job-train and independence-train (sorry about the syntax). Shouldn’t that family instead be allowed to take their IDEA funding elsewhere, say to a community college who offers the education they need?

My question is this: is it really so complicated to job train people with Intellectual Disabilities and ASD? Okay, maybe someone with a history of aggression; but ask Peter Gerhardt about how he has worked with many, many aggressive people on the Spectrum and guess what? They ended up learning how to work. For every person, there is likely a job out there that they can do. Every person. For a good analogy, look at Special Olympics. They take any guy with an Intellectual Disability and they get him/her a sport. In Nat’s case, they taught him three sports. They just do it, withNikes or whatever. Volunteer coaches, and rarely do they even have one-to-ones. It’s not rocket science, it is human relating.

Or ask the organization I work for, the Community College Consortium for Autism and Intellectual Disabilities, (CCCAID) about their community college programs that not only job-train, soft-skill train, but also independence-train, and the businesses themselves pay, and the students often end up working at these places after they graduate. At least, that is the plan. CCCAID has a partnership with Thompson Hospitality now which will provide a certification, a bona-fide working experience while its students with ASD and IDs are in their community college programs, and these students will have certificates that were vetted by the industry employers themselves. You’d come out of the program being able to do exactly what Thompson Hospitality Corporation wants its employees to do. Now that is what I call an opportunity. Especially because you are training people to do work that you need. It is not an act of charity. It is a business arrangement.

olivertwist We shouldn’t be made to feel like Oliver when we ask for more. We are not biting the hand that feeds us. We — families of those with Intellectual Disabilities ASD and potential employees with Intellectual Disabilties and ASD — should be demanding accommodations in the workplace. A place at the table. And I don’t mean the kids’ table.


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