Nova Scotia autism program aims to help people find, keep jobs

A new program aims to give adults on the autism spectrum the skills and experience they need to find and keep work.

Autism Works Launchpad began last week with six participants

People on the autism spectrum will be able to take part in the Autism Works Launchpad in Halifax, aimed at finding clients the skills and experience needed to find work. (CBC)

A new program aims to give adults on the autism spectrum the skills and experience they need to find and keep work. 

The Autism Works Launchpad began last week. And already, 27-year-old Lauren King says she's already picked up some employment tips. 

"I've learned what makes you a good colleague and interview skills and job skills and how to dress appropriately for work and appropriate questions to ask at work," King said. 

The program, which runs three days a week, helps six people who are 18 or older and have graduated high school.

"The idea is to give our participants all of the skills and all of the knowledge they need to gain meaningful employment," says David Paterson, Autism Nova Scotia's education and employment coordinator. 

David Paterson has a background in entrepreneurship and is a teacher. He says there is typically little support for people with autism after they graduate from the school system. (CBC)

"Typically, we find people with autism when they're in the school system, there's lots of supports.

"Once they graduate, those supports evaporate, they're not there any more. So, young adults with autism who graduate don't have a network of support like they would in the education system."

Autism Works Launchpad is an educational program that builds on Autism Nova Scotia's Promise of the Pearl workshop, in which adults with autism make and sell their own jewelry. For nine months, participants complete curriculums that have been tailored to their individual needs by Autism Nova Scotia, Paterson said.

The participants will also leave the classroom for hands-on experience, such as working in a community garden. Paterson said a community job placement at the end of the course work is a chance to build resume experience. 

It isn't just work goals being set. Conlin Harvey, one of the participants, would also like "to gain a little bit more independence and more life skills." Right now, he works one day a week, but if this program helps him find full-time work, the 24-year-old hopes to get his own apartment. 

Conlin Harvey is a participant in the new autism program, and currently works one day a week. He hopes to one day get his own apartment. (CBC)

For King, the community work placement in a hotel will set her up for the kind of job she's hoping for. She said in the past, she's been unsuccessful in job interviews. 

"I plan to get a job in cleaning maintenance and lawn care service. So, I want to have training in those areas so it can help me when I apply, go for an interview, because that's what employers are looking for," King said. 

Paterson said in many cases employers just need to have a better understanding of what accommodations need to be made for someone on the autism spectrum, which can be as simple as using different approaches to training. 

"Many adults with autism have the capacity for employment. They can do the job and they can do the job well," Paterson said. "It's just a matter of getting the understanding from the employer's perspective that people with autism are typically wonderful employees." 


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