A Resource Desert

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

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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Photo by Jean Frenna on Pexels.com

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!