April marks Autism Awareness Month, an entire month devoted to raising awareness about this disease. Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder causing significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges depending upon the severity. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Autism affects 1 in 88 children, with a much higher incident rate almost five times higher in boys versus girls.
About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. had a developmental disability in 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism. However, the number of people diagnosed with autism could be reduced by nearly one third under new diagnostic criteria released last year. The Diagnosis Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is a document of the American Psychiatric Association. The update made changes in how autism is defined – in particular, Asperger’s Syndrome, for which there is no longer a separate diagnosis definition. Some worry that individuals who would previously have been qualified for a diagnosis will be left out. Without a diagnosis, children may not qualify for needed services – when early intervention makes such a critical long-term difference.
Although symptoms and their severity vary widely, the majority of young adults with autism spectrum disorder don’t go to college, which impacts their employment options. This year alone, 50,000 adolescents with autism will turn 18. But for people on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, high-tech jobs can be a perfect fit. They may flourish at engineering-type tasks or computer design, where their interaction with people is somewhat limited and an extreme focus on detail is a highly valued quality.
While PRIDE has been integrating people on the spectrum into our workforce for years (electronics manufacturing in particular), some large commercial companies are catching on, read more about it. More and more companies are learning that matching unique talents to the right jobs can provide a competitive advantage in addition to meaningful employment. PRIDE assistance in preparing these individuals for competitive employment opportunities includes development of an in-school training program that focuses on the abilities of this unique population. We are currently working with a private school in Sacramento on a pilot program that provides this training for transitional-aged students.
Collaboration enables jobs for people with autism, strengthening companies and improving people’s lives. If you know of a company that could benefit by employing the individuals we support, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.