Health Beat: Help wanted: Adults with autism

Health Beat: Help wanted: Adults with autism

Geoffrey Straughn is finishing is final classes, and he just started his first job, thanks to a unique program called "Project Search Collaborates for Autism."

"The mission is really to build the skills necessary for these individuals to move on beyond these doors to get competitive employment," said David Kuhn, clinical director, NewYork-Presbyterian Center for Autism and the Developing Brain.

For young adults with autism, finding work can be incredibly challenging. At Project Search, interns spend classroom time learning life skills, but there's a strong focus on real-life job-training.

"Our interns go through three rotations, three 10-week rotations, for a total of 600 work hours per year, where they are placed at different sites across our campus getting a variety of different experiences," Kuhn said.

Interns range in age from eight to 21. They must have a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder, have no violent tendencies, be able to communicate and follow a one- to two-step schedule.

"Well, I do need a schedule of what I do 'cause if I don't have a schedule, I don't know what the heck I'm supposed to do," Straughn said.

Straughn's new job is with the Yonkers, New York, district attorney's office. He is one of the 70 percent in the program who go on to find work.

"Geoffrey has grown a lot this year," said his mom, Judy Straughn. "He's learning to do so many things, and he seems to be happy, which is what I want."

Project Search has grown from a single program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital in 1996 to more than 200 sites around the world.

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