Insight With Beth Ruyak

Hosted By Beth Ruyak

Insight creates conversation to build community, exploring issues and events that connect people in our region. Insight covers breaking news and big ideas, music, arts & culture with responsible journalism, civil discussion and diverse voices.

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Expanding Employment Opportunities For Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Meristem student Mackenzie Foy, prepares chocolate chip cookies under the instruction of Lucy Plumb-Reyes.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Accessing the job market can be particularly difficult for adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. They tend to earn less and have fewer occupational choices than others their age, including those with other disabilities. That’s according to a 2013 study from the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

In recent years, however, more companies have worked to recruit and retain this underrepresented group. Microsoft and Freddie Mac are among those employers that have implemented autism employment initiatives. A pilot project aimed at chipping away at this trend will launch soon in Sacramento and Los Angeles.

Through the Breaking Barriers in Employment for Adults with Autism Pilot Program, organizers in the two cities will develop resources and conduct employer trainings. A group of adults with autism are taking the lead in the effort to promote autism employment initiatives here in Sacramento.

The Transformational Advocacy Project, or TAP, is comprised of students and graduates of Meristem—a three-year residential school for adults with ADS. They’ll work with partners like the California Workforce Development Board, the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, and the California Workforce Association to develop and offer training resources. They will also coordinate with participating stakeholders in Los Angeles.

Meristem graduate Caroline Eggert is a member of TAP — one of several who lobbied for the pilot project last year at the capitol. The 29-year-old has two part-time jobs, and said her time at Meristem gave her confidence and community she had previously lacked. She’ll talk about her experiences and perspective on employing autistic adults.

TAP program director and Meristem employee Valerie Baadh Garrett will discuss the project’s goals and future. Michael Bernick, a consultant for the California Workforce Association, will discuss how companies can create a culture that recruits and retains autistic employees. He’s an employment attorney with Duane Morris LLP and the former director of the California Employment Development Department. He also authored the book, “The Autism Job Club: The Neurodiverse Workforce in the New Normal of Employment.

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