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Transitioning to the World of Work: Considerations and Cautions

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  1. Transitioning to the World of Work: Considerations and Cautions • Bobby Newman • Dark Overlord of ABA

  2. The stark fact • Most individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders are unemployed or severely under-employed following graduation. • Estimates range as high as 80-90%

  3. The Problem • Many adult services programs are staffed at a ratio that does not allow for intensive intervention or anything near one on one attention. • There are also not a great many programs for individuals who are not yet able to be employed within the community, but whose skills are beyond those of the old style sheltered workshops.

  4. This then leads… • To a situation wherein individuals are placed into programs in terms of “doing the best we can,” rather than truly matching individual to program. • The actual reality is that rather than enter such programs, many individuals simply sit at home.

  5. As you might expect…. • Inappropriate placement can lead to frustration all around, both from staff and from consumers. • Simply sitting at home is a waste of human potential and is not a long-term strategy anyway. Caretakers are going to die one day.

  6. This then • Can translate into lots of inappropriate behavior on the part of the inappropriately placed individual that then competes with the learning process and leads to the individual having even further decreased community employment possibilities. • Will lead to the individual becoming a ward of the state if they simply stayed at home. Options for living arrangements will be whatever they can get.

  7. So what to do? • 1. We need to do a better job preparing students for the world of work. • 2. Try to create something different. What can we create that would allow for more stimulating employment, but not require greater levels of public funding for programs? • In this talk, we’ll discuss both strategies, which of course can be pursued simultaneously.

  8. Factors to consider in preparing for the world of work • This is a serious effort, not an after-thought. It must be the focus of education, not something that is considered “giving up on academics.”

  9. 5 year rule • Our old friend, it is equally relevant here. Program for what the student will need to know/be able to perform in 5 years.

  10. Going old school • Make sure teaching staff are well-versed on basic shaping and chaining teaching methods and task analysis construction. • Someone who is actually knowledgeable about what the job actually entails should be intimately involved in the task analysis process.

  11. Across areas • This is not just for skill building in the “learning” sense. Think of the entire person. • I never cease to be amazed by people who are surprised that a student who has sat at a desk his whole life is physically unable to do physical labor.

  12. Areas of Strength:Interests, passions and obsessions • A recent movement has emphasized thinking about areas of extreme interests as “passions” rather than obsession, as strengths, as opportunities to consider work-skills.

  13. This is an excellent thought • Case studies abound of students who seemed “obsessed” with train schedules and then found work giving information at the train station. • Or in art • Or in graphic design • In hospitality, making beds/cleaning, etc. • And a variety of other competitive work situations.

  14. One of my students • Hated noise • Loved organizing things • He now takes care of the antique book room at the library at a famous museum in NYC.

  15. Forgive my political incorrectness, but there are limits to this logic • Not all obsessive behavior is an employment-preparing passion. • A student whose “passion” is watching a single toy train rotate on a track for hours at time is not preparing for gainful employment. • Nor someone who watches and re-watches the same ten seconds of video for hours at a time.

  16. Therefore, we all face the reality • We may not all be able to have our dream job, but of course our motivation is going to increase as we get closer and closer.

  17. We must also consider possible interfering behavior • I had an adult learner come to my program who had a savant-like knowledge of classical music and would have been great at working in a record store, directing people to desired music.

  18. Some problems • He would throw rocks and bottles at trains he felt were off schedule. • He threw rocks and bottles at cars playing their radios (to him) too loud, or at neighbors who played tv/radio too loud. • He would not enter anywhere there was a public address system. • This made GETTING TO WORK difficult.

  19. Not to mention • That finding a record store these days is like finding a watchable Eddie Murphy movie. • The world has moved to on-line shopping and his skills/knowledge are antiquated, except for extreme niche markets. • “When you work at the glove department at Neiman’s, you are selling things that nobody buys anymore” (Steve Martin, Shopgirl). • He refused to work if the salary was not about 400% the going rate.

  20. Another excellent worker referred to the program • Had a passion for numbers and organizing. • Never were the expiration dates in the dairy aisle so well organized. • Unfortunately, he also thought nothing of asking female shoppers how they cared for their pubic hair.

  21. Behavior treatment plans/social skills instruction was needed • None of the behavior issues was insurmountable. They did have to be addressed, however, before the viable work skills could be useful for the individual.

  22. There is also systemic concern • One chain of giant stores that hired people with ASD’s was sued over a tragic accident that came about when someone employed with autism ran over a shopper when asked by a shopper to help move her car. • “He had been taught to help the customers with whatever they need.” • The chain store is no longer hiring people with developmental disabilities.

  23. A new model may be needed • We’re going to have to set up enterprises ourselves. Some of these operate at a purely break-even level, or have non-profits associated with them that help fund. • Consider

  24. Spectrum Designs, provides gainful employment and meaningful vocational experiences to teens and young adults with Autism and other developmental disabilties, so they can live fuller more productive lives through the world of work! We operate a non profit business that creates custom made decorated t-shirts and apparel for organizations, businesses and special events. A ground breaking venture which fully engages individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and similar developmental disabilities,  in all aspects of production. Our goal is to raise awareness among the general population regarding the abilities and employability of these exceptional individuals.  We offer competitive pricing, unsurpassed customer service  and high quality products. In addition to decorated garments, we offer a complete line of party favors and promotional products for all your giftgiving and marketing needs. Your patronage and support assists us in our mission to employ these highly capable individuals while helping them acheive fuller, more productive , meaningful lives. Spectrum Designs, Merchandise with Impact! 

  25. " Thank you Spectrum Designs Foundation for the great job on our Bill's Team shirts for the 12th Annual Long Island Walk Now for Autism Speaks. What a gorgeous day it turned out to be and we received so many wonderful comments on our shirts! We love and appreciate what what you do at SDF. Keep up the great work! I've been telling everyone about you!!!! Maybe we'll add team hats for next year's walk. :)“ Carol Bariatti-Ceffalia

  26. Can we do something within exiting programs? • Sure, let’s look at an example.

  27. Enter the B.A.S.E. program • Booker’s • Adult • Services • Enterprises

  28. Who was Booker? That was Booker Noe, master distiller at Jim Beam. He was a model of good customer relations and business-sense. If you don’t like a program for people with developmental disabilities being named after him...... TOUGH!!!

  29. What sorts of Enterprises? • We offer HIPPA-compliant record shredding for attorneys. • We created a snack cart that would service the building where the program was housed.

  30. The Systems are self-sustaining • We are able to keep costs low by having the programs pay for themselves. • We are not allowed by state regulation to pay employees, but try to work out “payment” such as we can (e.g., items from the cart or from our Reward Store system within the agency which also included the purchase of behavioral/programmatic activities).

  31. Two case studies • Raymond and Charlene are two consumers at the program. They both have a history of object-destructive behavior, as well as screaming and either self-injury (Charlene) or aggression towards others (Raymond)

  32. Graph of competing behavior Competing Behavior

  33. The advantages of such a program…. • It made for a great generalization opportunity • It allowed for targeting truly functional skills (math, conversation, etc.) • Staff looked forward to seeing the consumers (and the sugar rush). In effect, they were “paired” and further welcomed.

  34. The advantages of such a program…. • The task was intrinsically motivating and required little staff presence to keep it running effectively. • Every day was a novel experience that taught flexibility and adaptability.

  35. Disadvantages • We had the devil’s own time with regulatory issues regarding such things as learner payment, and I believe someone who works should be compensated. • This did not fit within traditional programmatic regulations and a great deal of checking with state was required.

  36. One last advantage • It was cool.

  37. Final thoughts • We are entering a tougher new world as regards adults with developmental disabilities. The old models no longer fit with our new understandings and social ethics. • With serious preparation, creative programming and/or independent financing, a new paradigm is possible.

  38. You’ve got 5 years • Go do it.