Quick Update

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I know, I’ve been quiet lately.

Don’t worry, though, it’s for good reasons! There has been a LOT of planning going on!

I’m not going to say too much just yet, as we are still in the finalization stages, but I will say that SPARC is preparing to team up with another great organization in the Riviera Beach community to offer not one, not two, but multiple SPARC trainings to the public, for FREE. I am beyond excited about this, and once we have everything solidified, we will definitely be announcing the details!

We aiming for an mid-October start, so check back here or like our Facebook page for updates!

Lesson of the day to fellow entrepreneurs: Get to know those in your community, and make your presence known as much as possible by attending local events (armed with business cards!), and connecting to those you have common ground with. You literally never know where your next opportunity or partnership may come from!

A Resource Desert

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While living in the Bay Area of California, I felt as if there were a lot of resources for families on the autism spectrum. I watched former co-workers open up therapy service organizations for autism, and the universities (such as Stanford and the not-so-local UC Davis) had entire departments and programs dedicated to research and/or community outreach. There seemed to be something going on all the time, from walks and conferences, to trainings and meetings…there was always something to learn and gain.

You can imagine my surprise when I moved back home to South Florida and found nearly nothing compared to where I came from. Granted, there are some organizations that say they do the very things that I am looking to do, but I still hear from my community that there aren’t any services being provided to them. There is a disconnect somewhere.

Because of the wording of the laws in Florida (many of which only specify ABA as an acceptable intervention), many of the agencies that provided such services when I last lived here no longer can due to the guidelines. I am also noticing fewer professionals in my area who are trained or have experience with autism, so that is contributing to the resource desert as well. It is a strange and unfortunate situation all around.

So, what is SPARC hoping to do in the midst of this disconnect and resource shortage? Well, while we may not provide direct therapy, we do want to give families, communities, schools/daycare centers, and potential employers a better understanding of autism and encourage advocacy. That is how the system is improved. Awareness leads to Acceptance, Acceptance leads to Affirmation, and Affirmation leads to Advocacy.

It’s time to create an oasis in the desert.

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Work Accommodations

I really like this graphic that a friend of mine posted about accommodations for adults on the autism spectrum in the workplace. I also realize that not all of these can be logically met by every company, but having worked myself in conditions ranging from “interesting” to “Spirit, help me,” I think a lot of these could benefit a wide range of employees.

I, for one, am NOT a fan of florescent lights…ugh.

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This graphic is brought to you by the Autism Women’s Network.

Also, check out my Autism page, which just got its August update!

Autism and Employment

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WebMD released an article this week about the expectations and experiences of work for  adults on the autism spectrum. While the study has not been peer-reviewed yet, it does appear to offer a solid look at what the office environment feels like for a population who is (unfortunately) still trying to get their foot through the door.

I appreciate the fact that one of the biggest takeaways from this article for me was the fact that autistic adults were not completely sold on the idea of formally training employees about autism. This was mostly because they did not want to be singled out. This was also listed as the reason that they were hesitant about having a different rate of pay. While my trainings have been with non-profit volunteer teams who regularly interact with autistic individuals or families affected by autism, I can understand the hesitation of having an “autism training” at a for-profit company. It’s something for me to think about, for sure.

It is an interesting article overall, and the findings were presented this past Wednesday at the International Society for Autism Research’s annual meeting. The direct article link is below.

https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/news/20180509/what-helps-adults-with-autism-get-and-keep-a-job#1

Video: Autism in the Workplace

This is a video from CBS about some of the programs major companies like Microsoft and SAP are using to invite and grow autistic talent to them. I attended part of  last year’s Autism at Work conference mentioned in the video, and it was a very inspiring and informative experience. Here’s my blog post about that experience.

Thanks to @beautmindstalk for posting this, and for the follow!

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-growing-acceptance-of-autism-in-the-workplace/

The (good) trend continues…

It’s really great to see more and more places and communities welcoming autistic individuals in this way. I especially love the “quiet room” idea at the amusement park and handing out toys while waiting in line.

I think I may start a Soul Sunday feature where I post articles and videos like this to show that inclusion is being worked on and spread.

How amusement parks are welcoming children with autism

Job Accommodation

At one of the previous agencies I worked at, we had quite a bit of space in the very beginning as far as our office went. I remember us having several conversations amongst ourselves about creating a sort of “quiet room” for employees to relax in. We also discussed such a room for or clients, who were autistic. We even thought up designs for the space; pillows, dim lighting (no florescent lights), a small relaxation fountain, etc. Needless to say, that lovely vision never saw the light of day.

Employers are required by laws (to a…reasonable extent, I’ll say) to accommodate for people with disabilities and special needs. They are encouraged in the United States to hire such individuals so as to appear inclusive. Ideally, this would happen regularly. As someone who has worked in HR, though, I can tell you that I have often witnessed quite the opposite.

That brings me to the article below. The consulting form EY talks with The Atlantic about hiring and accommodating autistic employees. To do this, every aspect of hiring and retaining had to be re-examined, from interviews, to interviews, to company culture. EY took this into consideration on all levels, and as a result has a more talented and complex employee demographic.

A lot of the tech companies are starting to actively adjust themselves in order to tap into a population who can make great employees if they are given the opportunity. Right now, EY is placing these employees in areas such as cybersecurity. My hope is that other industries will start to create similar programs to recruit and retain autistic individuals.

EY Describes it Program for Autistic Employees

Purpose

I started an 8 week training on DIR/Floortime yesterday. I am very familiar with the approach, but I still wanted to have more formal training on it and the techniques. The trainer was well-versed in both DIR and ABA, and she strongly preferred DIR (which makes sense if she’s training in it).

After the first training, we spoke casually for a few minutes. She had mentioned her middle son, who is autistic and is now a young adult, during the training a bit. Now, though, as we spoke about my thesis, she revealed something very personal.

She said that while her son is productive (has a job, a girlfriend, lives on his own), he is frustrated that he hasn’t found meaning in his life yet. He doesn’t know his purpose, and this bothers him enough that he mentions it to her. She doesn’t know how to address it with him.

While this is not an uncommon issue with those in their early 20’s (or older, to be honest), it seems especially hard for those who are just trying to navigate a system and society not set up for them. It is hard to focus on purpose when you are literally in survival mode all of the time.

I hope that at some point during the training, I can talk to her further about her son. The fact that she told me this, that our conversation went there, is no accident. This is, in fact, part of my own purpose…to help others figure out theirs.

 

Off-topic: I started a part-time job for income while I start setting up the next evolution of SPARC here in LA. Yes, SPARC is going to evolve a bit. The part time job is exposing me to the agencies and practices that are typical in southern California (which will be very helpful later on). Having seen how agencies work here, I am adjusting to both fit in and stand out. That, of course, will take some time. I am super excited about the prospects, though!

A Letter To Disney

Over the last few months, I have been both amazed and greatly encouraged by the amount of autism awareness that is starting to be raised in the private sector. While other parts of the world have certainly been ahead of us Americans in that sense, we are starting to realize the potential of a workforce that companies have not given much of a chance in the past.

Disney has been a regular source of enjoyment and bridge-building for many of my clients, regardless of their demographics. Being a Disney kid/adult myself, I personally know what impact it has. I remember the joy (again, as an adult) at seeing an African-American Disney princess emerge on the scene with The Princess and the Frog. The Disney brand has significant clout in the world, and that includes the autism world within it. For many of the families I’ve worked with, being familiar with Disney gave a clinician a much greater chance at earning the trust of our clients.

The article below is from an autistic adult who now speaks with corporations and organizations to make the case for hiring his demographic. He also does an aspect of what I like to do, which is train the current workforce on working with autistic employees and coworkers.

A Letter To Disney

LA Versus Bay: Autism

I am FINALLY in LA and settling in while scoping out the apartment scene. I have also been taking the time to look at the various agencies that focus on or at least include autism therapies in their offerings. I have already seen some interesting differences between agencies in LA county, and agencies in the Bay Area, and I’m sure more will pop up (which I will definitely write about). I will stress that this is just based on personal research I’ve been doing on agencies in LA (both before and after moving) and the Bay Area (which I have worked in and for); this is by no means comprehensive or an absolute of the offerings of these two areas. It is literally a “first impressions” kind of deal.

  1. Wraparound services and the concept of such seem to extend beyond the agencies themselves in LA. They tend to partner up with other agencies a lot more, mostly because the agencies down here appear more specialized in their missions. I’ve noticed that in the Bay, many agencies (at least the bigger ones) tend to be one-stop shops in a sense; for example, they will offer intervention or behavioral services, speech therapy, and occupational therapy in one organization.
  2. Because LA county is so freaking huge (and a pain to drive in), the agencies are much more narrow in their geographical scope here. They often have to limit themselves to certain communities, and even demographics within those communities. In the Bay Area, agencies tend to have more geographical reach and usually overlap in coverage areas. At my last job in the Bay, I had clients from Mountain View, to south San Jose, through Milpitas (google a map of the area, and you’ll see what I mean).
  3. The diversity of the type of agencies, at least for now, appears more vast in LA. Up north, there were no known agencies that utilized the Floortime/DIR method, and this was one of the reasons why I felt so left out of the autism circle there. ABA exclusively rules the land. While it also corners the market in LA county, I have found two agencies who use the Floortime method (basically unheard of in the Bay Area), and both have been in operation for well over a decade.
  4. Community outreach and connection is on a higher priority in LA. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist in the Bay Area, because it does. I am saying, though, that it is more obvious in the agencies I’ve researched in the LA area. The agencies down here overall (and not just special needs ones) tend to create and hold their own conferences, go into lower socioeconomic areas/neighborhoods, and communicate more readily with those neighborhoods. Why? Because individuals in those neighborhoods rose up and decided to carve such agencies into creation themselves.

Overall, the LA area appears to operate a bit differently than the Bay Area, which means I will have to learn the lay of the land first before really striking out to plant my business here. So far, though, I am excited with what I see.