Program helps students with autism transition into working world - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Program helps students with autism transition into working world

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UNDATED (WJRT) - (07/29/14) - A recent study finds that half of young adults with autism are unable to find work in the eight years after finishing high school.     
One innovative program is helping high school students with autism transition into the working world.

Young adults with autism are getting help with life skills and a head start on careers thanks to a special program designed with their learning challenges in mind.

Geoffrey Straughn is finishing his final classes, and he just started his first job thanks to a unique program called "Project Search Collaborates for Autism".

"The mission is really to build the skills necessary for these individuals to move on beyond these doors to get competitive employment," said David Kuh, PHD, New York-Presbyterian Center for Autism and Developing Brain.

For young adults with autism, finding work can be incredibly challenging.  At Project Search, interns spend classroom time learning life skills, but there's a strong focus on real-life job training.

"Our interns go through three rotations, three 10 week rotations for a total of 600 work hours per year where they are placed at different sites across our campus, getting a variety of different experiences," Kuh said.

Interns range in age from 18-21. They must have a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder, have no violent tendencies, be able to communicate and follow a one to two step schedule.

"Well, I do need a schedule of what I do 'cause if I don't have a schedule, I don't know what the heck I'm supposed to do," Straughn said.

Geoffrey's new job is with the Yonkers New York District Attorney's office. He is one of the 70 percent in the program who go on to find work.

"Geoffrey has grown a lot this year, he's learning to do so many things, and he seems to be happy, which is what i want," said Judy Straughn, Geoffrey's mom.

Project Search has grown from a single program at Cincinnati children's hospital medical center in 1996 to over 200 sites across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
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