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Autism@Work Hiring Programs: Keys to Success

September 19th, 2019

By Marcia Scheiner, President, Integrate Autism Employment Advisors

The buzz about the benefits of hiring individuals with autism is moving through the employment world and more and more companies are jumping on the Autism@Work hiring program bandwagon.  We like to quote Dr. Stephen Shore’s saying, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Creating a program to hire people with autism takes careful thought and planning to ensure the success for each individual you hire. While every company will have their own approach, certain elements are critical to the success of any Autism@Work hiring program. Two of those elements are an assessment and education & training.

First, a company needs to conduct a thorough assessment of their corporate culture, work environment, job requirements/descriptions, HR practices (including interviewing, on-boarding and performance management) and disability support services to ensure they are autism friendly before embarking on any hiring initiative.

Second, education & training about how autism presents in the workplace, interviewing techniques and management strategies needs to be provided to all hiring managers, recruiters, HR business partners and colleagues who will be working with autistic employees, again, before any hiring initiative is undertaken.  The broader the audience for this training, the better.  Assessments and education & training should precede the hiring of the first autistic employees of an Autism@Work program but are also elements that should be continuous throughout the life of a program as it develops and grows within an organization.  Employers incorporating these elements into their Autism@Work programs have been the most successful in attracting and retaining neuro-diverse employees.

Marcia Scheiner is the President and Founder of Integrate Autism Employment Advisors (“Integrate”) and the author of “An Employer’s Guide to Managing Professionals on the Autism Spectrum” (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017). Prior to founding Integrate in 2010, Ms. Scheiner held senior management positions at Zurich Financial Services, Chase Manhattan Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.  Ms. Scheiner is a graduate of Wellesley College and has an MBA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.  She is the parent of a young adult son with Asperger Syndrome.

Integrate Autism Employment Providers is a non-profit that works with organizations to help them identify, recruit and retain qualified professionals on the autism spectrum.  Integrate helps companies become autism friendly employers of college graduates with autism by providing assessment, education and training, recruiting and ongoing support services to those organizations.

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Sorting Out A Transition Plan for Your Child

November 17th, 2014

– Anonymous


Let’s call my son Johnny. He has a neurological impairment and is ambulatory and impressively articulate. These are my views and perceptions as his mother. I hope the points that I will highlight will resonate with readers. I also hope that some of you will be motivated and proactive in not only making a transition plan but making that plan a reality that is sustainable and seek guardianship, before your child reaches the age of majority if appropriate.

My Story

We live in a great school district in Westchester County.   My son had had a number of medical interventions and we had a relatively sound understanding of our challenges.   Yes, we all know that each child is different and has different needs. My son moved up in grades, followed the Regents track, though he was always in special education classes.

In high school, it all came crashing down and it became apparent to everyone that a Regents diploma was not going to become a reality (for him).

Despite the fact that he had a transition plan and even a transition coordinator set in place in our district, Johnny was no longer interested. As of 11th grade, my son did not want to go to school anymore, thinking it was a huge waste of his time. His CSE agreed that if he didn’t want to attend school there was no way to force him. At that juncture and to my dismay, he was over 18, guardian- less, and therefore emancipated and able legally to make his own decisions about life. Legally, I learned that few options exist for parents to exercise control and supervision over a child after he or she turns 18, whether a child is in school or not.   Johnny had not, in the true legal sense of the word, transitioned out of school nor had he transitioned into anything else.

He became more and more out of sync with so many and so much. I watched him, helplessly, as he sat around, slept, played video games, watched TV and frequented CVS to buy candy. This went on for over two years.

I tried many different courses of action: I called adult protective services, the police, the pediatrician, and the neurologist. I cried to friends and family members. I even called Mental Health Association (MHA), who told me in writing that if Johnny wasn’t a threat to himself or to others, they could not do a thing to help me.

What was my problem? My child, a young adult now, was sinking: disengaged, with challenges no meaningful pursuits and no high school degree. My other children, Johnny’s siblings, were progressing.   We all felt aggrieved, irritated, frustrated and distressed.

I could find no one, nowhere, no how to help me and Johnny!

There were a number of contributing factors to our rough patch:

1. In as much as he was motivated, he always felt as if he had been pulled down. He was never fully accepting of his own challenges albeit he was extremely knowledgeable of his interventions.

2. I (his mother), had not fully understood that money cannot buy a young adult with a disability services.

3. All of the professionals who had worked with my son had always seen my son as ‘on the fence’; he straddled two worlds; mainstream but not, non-mainstream yet so articulate and able.

Finally, it was made clear to me that the only one who could help my son…was me. I asked myself over and over, “What is appropriate for my son?”

The convergence of these factors made the later years of high school and post-high school a living disaster. I realized that the only way to access county, state and federal services was for him to be in the system and that was a scary thought for me to grasp.

I made one and only one resolution that year: I was going to move my son to a ‘better place’. I didn’t have an idea what exactly that meant nor did I know what that would look like but I committed to knowing for a fact that the status quo absolutely was not working: not for him, me, or the rest of the family.

Since no agency could help, it had to be me. I had the power because Johnny lived in my house with me – otherwise, I realized, I would have had no legal authority over him.

Johnny already had his OPWDD eligibility. I visited Social Security, ACCES VR, and interviewed Medicaid service coordinators (MSC).   For the record: if you are NOT happy with your MSC you can and SHOULD change them. There is absolutely no reason for you to stay with someone who is not helping you/ your child.

8 months later… Everything is in place!

Johnny has a new Medicaid service coordinator, who has visited my son numerous times (over the course of just six weeks)! I rented an apartment less than one mile from my house for one year. Johnny is set up there. I buy his groceries; he comes with me, is engaged and helpful. He even washes his sheets – I couldn’t get him to ‘allow’ me to clean his sheets when he lived at home, but now, we are learning how to do laundry and have washed his new sheets. Life is good. Johnny is 1000% more engaged in his life, I am happier, his siblings experience calmness in their home, ACCESS VR is helping Johnny find a job and our MSC is on the case!

What to learn from my experiences:

  1. You can ask 100 people their opinion regarding your child but only you can change the status quo.
  2. Don’t be afraid — Change is good!
  3. We need to organize our kids’ lives so that when we are not around their life can continue and flourish!

If I could impart one piece of advice based on this experience and my knowledge: Sort out a transition plan for your child before he or she reaches the age of majority and seek guardianship, if appropriate. The age of majority is legally 18 in New York; regardless of whether your child has a disability or not.Take these steps before he/she exits high school. Contrary to popular belief, these two moments in time are not necessarily the same as your child may be entitled to exit high school at 21 years of age.

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