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Employment & Autism Initiative. If not now then when……. Outline. What is Autism Why Employment Overall Grant Objectives Timeline of grant and milestones Visual of what the goals ultimately will drive Who is the Autism Society of MN – AuSM    Next Steps. What is Autism?.

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employment autism initiative

Employment & Autism Initiative

If not now then when……


What is Autism

Why Employment

Overall Grant Objectives

Timeline of grant and milestones

Visual of what the goals ultimately will drive

Who is the Autism Society of MN – AuSM   

Next Steps

what is autism
What is Autism?

Autism or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a complex developmental disorder that is present from birth or very early in development.

Autism is a developmental disability that is diagnosed based on three areas of disorder:

- Impairment in social interaction

      - Impairment in communication

      - Resistance to change, restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.

what is important to understand
What is important to understand?

Social Interactions:

  • Difficulty reading nonverbal cues
  • Less likely to look at other people’s faces
  • Difficulty initiating and maintaining interaction
  • Difficulty maintaining joint attention
  • Difficulty repairing social breakdowns

Difficulty with Communication:

  • Delay in development of speech
  • Lack of functional speech
  • Echolalia
  • Unusual rhythm, pitch, or other voice qualities
  • Limited functions of language
  • Poor ability to initiate and maintain conversation
  • Difficulty with gestures
  • Difficulty with pretense or speculation
  • Concrete or idiosyncratic language
  • Lack of emotional expression
  • Inappropriate emotional expression
is there more to know
Is there more to know?

Resistance to change:

  • Insistence on specific routines
  • Everything in its place
  • Difficulty coping with uncertainty
  • Unwillingness to engage in others’ interest or activities
  • Unusual knowledge about a limited topic
  • Repetitive motor mannerisms
    • Flapping, twisting, etc.
    • Preference for rocking or other repetitive motions
    • Sensory Processing Abnormalities

It is a puzzle?


 People with Autism Have Terrific Memories They may have a much better memory than their typical peers for all kind of critical details. Autistic People Are Less Materialistic They worry less about brand names, hairstyles and other expensive but unimportant externals than most people do. 

Individuals with Autism Have Fewer Hidden Agendas Most of the time, if a person on the autism spectrum tells you what he wants -- he is telling you what he wants. No need to beat around the bush, second guess, and hope you're reading between the line. Just say it like it is!

People with Autism Open New Doors for neuro-typicals For some having an autistic person in our lives has had a profound positive impact on our perceptions, beliefs and expectations.

…from a lifetime of "should" – to a new world of "is. 

Individuals with Autism rarely Lie They live in black and white terms. To them, truth is truth.

 People on the Autism Spectrum Live in the Moment How often do typical people fail to notice what's in front of their eyes because they're distracted by social cues or random chitchat?

People with Autism Rarely Judge Others Social distinctions hold much less importance. In fact, people on the spectrum often see through such surface appearances to discover the real person. 

Individuals with Autism are Passionate Many are truly passionate about the things, ideas and people in their lives. 

 People with Autism Are Not Tied to Social Expectations They want to be treated normal, of course this means you must define normal. What matters is being treated with respect and kindness.

how ready are you
How ready are you?

1 in 110

12,000 families in Minnesota affected by ASD

13,000 children diagnosed with autism

Age 8 is largest population

Every 20 seconds someone is diagnosed with autism

Only 3% of our aging population is employed fulltime


Why hire a person with ASD?










Fear of the unknown

Time and effort

phase 1 research study goal
Phase 1 Research Study Goal
  • The goal of the research study is to better understand and document the needs, requirements, and expectations, of people with autism spectrum disorder and businesses.
  • This information will aid in the identification and expansion of employment opportunities for young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
stakeholders interviewed
Stakeholders Interviewed
  • People with ASD (at least 14 years of age) and their family members
  • Business representatives
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services personnel
  • Educators (secondary & postsecondary)
  • Consultants
findings business 16
Findings – Business (16)
  • We had very positive response from businesses. Businesses say they are willing to consider participating in a pilot and at some point hiring persons with ASD, they think that it may be a good business decision.
  • In general, there is a fear of the unknown because businesses have little experience employing persons with autism spectrum disorder.
  • Businesses say to get started they will need significant training and support on all aspects of autism spectrum disorder.
  • Businesses stress the importance of applicants having previous paid work experience.
  • Business representatives describe the importance of teaching all students 21st-century skills ( IT literacy, proficiency using digital devices and PDAs to access, manage, integrate, evaluate and create information to successfully function in a knowledge economy).
  • Businesses in many industries require or strongly prefer that applicants have a degree.
findings families individuals 26 21
Findings – Families & Individuals (26) (21)
  • Individuals and family members demonstrate a genuine desire to achieve and sustain paid employment at a living wage within a wide range of technology and digital arts fields.
  • Students and adults want to work and be included in all aspects of citizenship – be accepted as a regular individual – not labeled.
  • Some families are desperate to get their family member employed and are starting businesses to support getting individuals employed and sustaining their employment.
  • Interviewees say that IEP and transition don’t adequately help students prepare for work and get jobs. Too much focus is on academics and living skills. Need earlier and additional focus on employment goals.
  •  Individuals with ASD and their families do not appear to understand how to best access and utilize the services of Vocational Rehabilitation Services.
findings families individuals continued
Findings – Families & Individuals (Continued)


  • “I want to get a job like everyone else; I want to get married have a husband and kids and have a home of my own”.
  • “There is nothing wrong with me, I just think differently than some people”.
    • “If I get an interview, I’ll get a job”.
  • “I have a great memory; my parents don’t even use the phone book anymore, it is too slow, they just ask me and I give them an instant answer”.
  • “If I am driven somewhere I don’t need a map or GPS to get back home; I know the route exactly”.
  • Individuals with ASD and their family members express that employers, coworkers, non special ed. teachers, and other students do not adequately understand ASD and it’s effects on relationships, information processing, and communication. 
findings education consultants 16
Findings – Education & Consultants (16)
  • “I learn best by electronic means; not the regular class room; too much noise and people talking too fast”.
  • Most public education schools and special education teachers express frustration with the current system. They feel that more needs to be done to help them help the students be prepared for work and post secondary education; learn acceptable coping skills and have work experience prior to graduation.
  • Professor Frank R Rusch “Students must have 3 paid jobs before they graduate or they won’t get employed”
  • Most special education teachers expressed frustration with the “ownership” attitude of non-special education teachers and administration staff. They feel that there should be a fully integrated attitude and approach to educating students with disabilities. All teachers and administration should take ownership for all students.
  • As a deliverable of the research study, an inventory of Minnesota colleges and universities that offer degrees in the areas of IT ( includes software testing), digital arts, and video gaming was created.
phase 3 tasks
Phase 3 Tasks
  • Create a new web site section that features 150+ resources
      • Master Communications Group
  • Update two free online courses (Partners in Education and Partners in Employment) to include information about ASD/tech careers
      • Zenmation
  • Find success stories and promote stories through the general media
  • Provide advanced media coverage of the Temple Grandin in February 2011
      • Wallace Group
  • There are policy issues that need to be addressed for reauthorization of federal laws (Developmental Disabilities Act and Rehab Act)
  • This grant ends on December 31,2010
objectives of grant goals
Objectives of Grant Goals

To improve the infrastructure and build capacity to expand and improve the employment outcomes of young adults on the autism spectrum. Traditionally those with ASD have experienced difficulty with job procurement and retention.

AuSM proposes to address this situation by facilitating a round table discussion with a diverse group of employers, educators, service providers, parents, individuals on solutions/strategies specific to address barriers to job entry and retention aligning them with the 8 goals as described in this grant.

Short term: strategies/solutions

Long term: pilots/workshops/Employment tools

Partners: Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the Govenor’s Council Developmental Disabilities

goal alignment
Goal Alignment


Steering Committee


Individuals w/ASD

Service Providers



Computer Camp


Educational Events











Direct Hire




Working Model


Goal Alignment



February - Ongoing

Test & Collect







-Best Buy


-Adults ASD

-Phase 1 companies

-Dr. Barb’ support group


Educational Workshops

Direct Hires

Voc Rehab

Pilot companies

Service Provider companies




autism and employment forum
Autism and Employment Forum

Held at 3M on 2/17/11

1,600 in attendance

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Temple Grandin

Co-Founders: 3M, Cargill, Best Buy

Co-Sponsors: Vocational Resource Services and

Governor’s Council on Developmental


Objective: employers talking to employers about hiring and retaining those affected by ASD

Outcome: how their gifts and talents help you become the employer of choice…..


Autism & Employment Forum Sponsors

State ACCESS Group

Governor's Council Developmental

Disabilities (GDCC)

Department of Human Services

The Cooperating Community

Programs Johnson-Condon Law FirmLarry Moody - AuSMAmeriprise

Minnesota Dept. of Transportation

MN State Council of Disability


TPT (Institution to Independence)

HBO (Temple Grandin movie)

Autism Works


TSE - Training, Support & Employment PrudentialLifeworksCapella University

Opportunity Partners 



The Wallace Group

Merrick, Inc.

GTS – Government Training Services

-Partners in Policy Making

MDLC Minnesota Disability Law Center

ICI Institute Community Integration

MN Life College

American Financial Printing, Inc. (AFPI)

3M -

Best Buy


business guide
Business Guide

Working with your employees strengths

Overview of strengths, talents/gifts

Overview of learning styles and challenges of those affected with ASD in the workplace

Workplace Supports and Accommodations

Recommendations on solutions and strategies for the workplace

Hiring Practices need to change

Ability to reach candidates

Facilitated interviews to attain skill-sets

No disclosure / No diagnosis

Retention Practices need to change

Acclimation practices / don’t assume

Utilizing pictures/tools

Core Competencies

Employers/Co-Workers/Employees with ASD

example of building blocks to successful employment and retention
Example of building blocks to successful employment and retention:

Help facilitate “social interactions” to become apart of the team

* Focus on their strengths

* Use what is “motivating” to the individual

* Don’t forget positive reinforcement

* Engage and Involve all on the team enhancing inclusion opportunities

Communication = Use direct language

* Be as black and white as possible

* Include details--don’t assumptions!

* Avoid lengthy directional statements

* Avoid implied meanings

Tools that help = Schedules—picture or written

  • * Visual work instructions
  • * Written instructions
  • * Visual “work system”
  • (i.e. in box“, all done” box, colored folders.
  • * Eliminate sensory overload (lighting, noise, distractions)

Use predictable job routines

* Provide “rules” or work policies

* Provide details

* Clearly define work expectations

* Break work down into small tasks

* Allow more training time

who is the autism society of mn ausm
Who is the Autism Society of MN (AuSM)

Founded in 1971, serving families, educators and individuals with ASD

Our mission: As the local presence of the autism community in MN we have existed to enhance the lives of those living with ASD through education, support, collaboration and advocacy.

Our Goals:

To inform and educate – families, educators, professionals and the community

To advocate for appropriate services and rights

ausm employment services
AuSM Employment Services:

Educational workshops:

Onsite and customized strategies/solutions to match your busines model and specific job functions

Designed for Human Resources personnel, Hiring Managers and Diversity Committees to improve internal hiring practices, retention strategies and supports for those with ASD

Consulting Services

One-on-One sessions with management

One on One session with employees

Employment Business guide, a quick reference for managers, employees with ASD, co-workers, parents with special needs child/adult.

Support Resources

Resource directory

Mental health clinic

Parent supports and training series for those employed and raising a child with a disability

Adult programs, supports and resources for those living with ASD

what do we offer 2010 stats
What do we offer…. (2010 stats)

Member Services

Information and Referrals = 4,000 inquiries

Parent packets = 300 families

Resource Directory and Lending Library

Advocacy and Outreach

Leaders in mobilizing policy, participation in taskforce and stakeholder groups with our community partners

Steps of Hope grants = 23 awarded

Numerous events = fundraising / self funded

Education and Professional Development

Discovery series = 100’s of families

Annual State Autism Conference = 674 participants

Spectrum Series Classes = 460 community members

Lectures and Workshops = 100’s of educators and families

Annual Symposium for Educators = 230 attendees

Direct Services

Mental Health Clinic= 828 assessments

Camps = 300 campers

Eagles Nest = 86 children

Support groups = 350 individuals

next steps
Next steps:

Working with co founders on the 2012 forum

Working with 20 other companies and service providers on educational needs

Holding a workshop on ASD and Employment with VRS, Speaker: James Emmett

Employment Business book to be published in 2011

VRS -2nd grant for employment

Establish MN Employment Council

Join MN Business Leadership Network Group