Life Lessons

Life Lessons: Training kids with autism for the workplace

Life Lessons: Training kids with autism for the workplace

The number of adults living with autism is growing every year. In Pennsylvania, authorities say the number has tripled in the last six years.

It's a particular concern for health care providers who want to try to help adults with autism live independently.

The unemployment rate of young adults with autism is estimated to be around 90 percent. In response, there's a new idea in the Lehigh Valley that aims to be life changing for the future of kids with autism. It's a program to let kids with autism figure out exactly what they can do so when they get out in the working world they can be successful.

Mimi Ludwig adores her daughter 23-year-old daughter Stacy and what she'd really love is for Stacy to be out in the working world like other young women her age. So like any committed mom, Mimi is doing her best to change the world. As President of Lehigh Valley Autism Society, Mimi is teaming up with The Children's Integrated Center for Success or CICS in Allentown to create something new.

"We want to listen to the young adults. What do they like to do and train them to do it more professionally," says Mimi.

CICS is in the midst of a major expansion and part of it will be Creative Abilities Vocational Initiative for high school students and young adults on the autism spectrum that will include a makerspace area for high school students and young adults on the autism spectrum and other neuro-diversities.

Caronne Taylor Bloom, is an educator and executive function coach with CICS and reflects on the concept, curriculum and program.

"We want to allow an avenue for them to create and explore and to learn skills that they're going to need to create their own future. There's so much to explore and to do and what we have found is that our kids have an amazing level of skill, whether it's high tech or low tech that's not being tapped in to and we really want to tap in to what they really love."

Mimi agrees and says through the CAVI project, older high school students and young adults will be able to come to the Makerspace at CICS to explore, tinker and play with the offerings that are of high interest in a supportive structured environment. The hope is that the time spent creating in the Makerspace will help develop the skills and light the sparks of new innovation that leads to the employment opportunities.

"I'm hoping that the makerspace leads to the young adult understanding what kind of career they'd like to go to, something they'd like to study, more like a secondary education perhaps or find a place where they can do an internship or possibly for us to create their own business for them and help them do that," explains Mimi.

Mimi's daughter Stacy with support was able to create a video on "Jenny the hairless guinea pig" and wants to create her own Youtube channel and take her viewers to a variety of places and activities that people will be interested in using her voice of Jenny.

"With her idea of wanting to be a social worker, could she create a Youtube channel where we take people-through the voice of Jenny the hairless guinea pig-could we take people around the community and show them what special needs people can do?" asks Mimi.

Our target date for the beginning of this new concept is New Year 2017.

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Allentown, PA 18102




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